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Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month Colonoscopies are a Slam Dunk

EMPORIA, VA - According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is one of the top five most common cancers in the United States—and it is the third leading cause of death by cancer in Americans. Colorectal cancer often goes undetected because symptoms do not usually occur until the disease is advanced.

“Colorectal cancer affects both men and women equally,” says colorectal surgeon Homayoon Akbari, MD, PhD, FACS. “Because your risk for the cancer increases after age 50, regular screenings are recommended for adults age 50 and older. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, certain gastroenterological conditions or diseases, eat a diet high in fat content, or smoke, you are at a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer.”

The good news is that with early detection – through a colonoscopy – the survival rate dramatically increases. If colon cancer is detected before it spreads, the five-year survival rate is about 90 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute, but if not caught before the cancer spreads to other organs, the survival rate dips to about 14 percent.

“A colonoscopy is a procedure that allows a doctor, usually a gastroenterologist, to see inside the colon and rectum,” explains Dr. Akbari. “Used as either a screening test or a diagnostic tool, it can help your doctor investigate early signs of cancer in the colon and rectum, as well as help diagnose the causes of unexplained changes in bowel habits, including abdominal pain, rectal bleeding and unexplained weight loss. If anything abnormal is observed, such as a polyp or growth, it is painlessly removed at that time and later tested in a laboratory for signs of cancer.”

Depending on your age, a colonoscopy screening may be a covered “wellness” test under your insurance plan, and most plans cover a colonoscopy completely as a follow-up test or diagnostic tool. To find a doctor or learn about the colonoscopy and other gastroenterology and surgical services offered at Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center, visit SVRMC.com. And as you watch the basketball games this month, remember that the ball is in your court to take action to reduce your risk for this preventable cancer.

Board certified in general and colorectal surgery, Dr. Homayoon Akbari practices at Southern Virginia Medical Group. Dr. Akbari specializes in colon and rectal surgery, including the treatment of colorectal cancer, diverticular disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and constipation. He is an active member of the medical staff of both Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center and Southside Regional Medical Center.

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