National Colon Cancer Awareness Month - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

National Colon Cancer Awareness Month

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Colon cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the country, and this month serves as a reminder to get tested.

March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month, and in Wisconsin, more than 2,800 people are diagnosed with it each year, and about 1,000 will die of the disease.

Dr. Gary Griglione, a Meriter gastroenterologist, says many of these deaths could have been prevented with a colonoscopy, a screening test proven to significantly reduce America's risk for colon cancer. And although colonoscopies are a major part of prevention, there are still many misperceptions about them, including the idea that people who are not at high risk don't need one.

According to Griglione, new guidelines state that people at average risk of developing colorectal cancer should get screened starting at age 50, whereas people at high risk, those with inflammatory bowel disease or a personal or family history of the disease, should get screened starting at age 40 or earlier.

"You may not need another screening for 10 years if nothing is found, but it's critical for people to come in and get that first screening," Dr. Griglione said.

Another common misperception is that if something is found, it's bad news. But Dr. Griglione says that's not the case. He says most colon cancers start as non-cancerous growths called polyps, that are found in approximately 30 percent of colonoscopies performed at age 50. He says those polyps are removed during the colonoscopy.

"So we are actually preventing cancer from developing," Dr. Griglione said.

One of the most common misperceptions is that the test is complicated and painful, but Dr. Griglione says the whole screening takes just 30 minutes, and is completely painless.

"Before the colonoscopy begins, we'll give the patient intravenous sedatives that make them relaxed and sleepy," Dr. Griglione said. "Most patients will have no pain whatsoever during the procedure and will probably not remember the colonoscopy itself. Normal activities can resume the next day; this procedure has a very low rate of complications."

Dr. Griglione also cleared up the idea about the liquid you drink before hand is not tasty. He said at Meriter, patients drink Miralax, a "low-volume" prep alternative. He says it is a gentle, more palatable prep that can be mixed with any clear liquid; he said he tells patients to use Gatorade.

Dr. Griglione joined us on 27 News at 5 on Tuesday to talk about this.

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