While March marks the one-year anniversary of COVID-19, this month is also important for recognizing an entirely different health condition impacting people, Colon Cancer Awareness Month.
Colon cancer is the third cause of cancer deaths and it is estimated that in 2021, there will be 150,000 new cases diagnosed in the U.S, with Blacks and Hispanics at significantly greater risk of early-onset disease and death. However, unlike most cancers, this disease can be prevented with early detection.
Dr. Alia Hasham, a Montefiore gastroenterologist, explained that although the preparation for a colonoscopy is not fun, the procedure is important and quick.
“It’s the preferred way to screen for colon cancer,” she said. “We want patients to feel this is a comfortable and safe experience.”
The doctor recommends people begin getting a colonoscopy at age 50.
Hasham noted that often patients with digestive issues feel uncomfortable talking about them openly, but open up with a doctor. Often, it feels like a burden is lifted off their shoulders when they are finally able to communicate with someone about their stomach issues, she said.
“We want to empathize they should not feel worried about talking about this,” she stressed. “They actually are thankful they got to fully explain their symptoms.”
Hasham, who has been in the gastro field for five years, said people should never be afraid to get checked out if they have stomach pain. More importantly, something that may seem obscure to the average person may require more testing, so seeing a specialist can always help.
“Regardless of age or family history, if they are having blood in their stool, a change in bowel habits, or weight loss, these symptoms warrant more testing and they should talk to their health care provider,” she stated.