Colonoscopy at Door County Medical Center: Preventing Colorectal Cancer is Easier than You Think

There are a number of reasons—ranging from embarrassment, to discomfort, to fear of results, or even the cost—that prevent people from getting a colonoscopy, but there is one big reason in favor of going through the procedure: a colonoscopy is the best way to detect colorectal cancer in its early stages or prevent it altogether.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide. And, after breast and lung cancer, colorectal cancer is the 3rd most common cancer, and the 2nd most likely to lead to death, in both the world and in the United States. Put another way, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is roughly 1 in 23 for men, and 1 in 26 for women. Indeed, the American Cancer Society estimates that in 2023, 106,970 new cases of colon cancer, and 46,050 new cases of rectal cancer, will be diagnosed in 2023 alone.

How does colorectal cancer develop?

The colon and the rectum are both parts of the large intestine—the colon is (approximately) the last 5 feet of the large intestine, while the rectum is the final 5 or 6 inches of the colon, which then connects to the anus. 

Colorectal cancer almost always develops from abnormal precancerous growths in the colon and rectum called polyps. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, polyps grow on the inner lining of the large intestine, often have a raised appearance, and "may be scattered throughout the colon and vary in size from a few millimeters to several centimeters." 

Colorectal polypsPolyps are pretty common—roughly half of all individuals over the age of 50 will develop polyps, with prevalence increasing as we age. Approximately 10% of polyps will progress to an invasive cancer. This process usually occurs over years to decades, with the likelihood that a polyp will become cancerous increasing as it grows in size. 

What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer can cause a variety of symptoms, and as a tumor grows, symptoms can include:

  • Blood in the stool—or rectal bleeding
  • Changes in bowel habits—such as diarrhea or constipation that last for more than a few days
  • Stools that are narrower than usual
  • Abdominal pain, cramping, or discomfort
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Anemia

Why is it important to detect colorectal cancer early on?

Per the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer has 4 stages:

  • In situ: Cancers that have not yet begun to invade the wall of the colon or rectum

  • Local: Cancers that have grown into the wall of the colon or rectum, but have not extended through the wall into nearby tissues

  • Regional: Cancers that have spread through the wall of the colon or rectum and have invaded nearby tissue, or that have spread to nearby lymph nodes

  • Distant: Cancers that have spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver or lung

Overall, the survival rate for colorectal cancer is 64%—that is, 64 people out of every 100 that develop colorectal cancer will survive up to 5 years after the disease is first detected. While those numbers are fairly reassuring, what's more reassuring is that if detected early on—in either the in situ or localized stage of the disease—the survival rate is 90%.

Unfortunately, as the disease progresses to the regional and distant stages, the 5-year survival rate drops to 71% and 14% respectively. The problem is, many people with the disease don't experience symptoms in the early stages, and because polyps can take 10 to 20 years to become cancerous, people often have no idea they have colorectal cancer until it has progressed into the latter two stages.

This is the reason getting a colonoscopy is so important—screening for the disease before you have symptoms greatly increases your chances of survival should your doctor find a cancerous polyp. 

What is a colonoscopy and how does it work?

DCMC colonoscopy servicesA colonoscopy is a crucial screening test that helps detect colon cancer and other colon issues by allowing for a direct visualization of the inside of the large intestine and rectum, enabling the doctor to identify and remove any polyps or abnormal tissue before they become cancerous.

During a colonoscopy, the patient lies on their left side and a flexible tube with a tiny video camera at its tip—called a colonoscope—is inserted into the rectum. This allows the doctor to view the inside of the colon and look for abnormalities and polyps. In addition to the video camera, the colonoscope is equipped to remove polyps or abnormal tissue that is found, as well as take biopsies (tissue samples), which can be sent to a lab for analysis.

"Colonoscopy is a common procedure and the technology has advanced greatly in recent years," says Dr. Shaun Melarvie, surgeon at Door County Medical Center Surgical Services. "The surgeons at Door County Medical Center have been performing this procedure for more than 30 years, with excellent results," he says, adding, "Our polyp detection rate is greater than the national standard." 

Typically, a colonoscopy lasts between 20 to 30 minutes. Patients generally opt for moderate sedation, which reduces pain and usually means there is no memory of the procedure. "Unlike most hospitals," Dr. Melarvie notes, "DCMC has full-time anesthesiologists who participate in the procedure and focus completely on the patient." 

"I did choose to have a sedative," says Phil Beibel, who came to Door County Medical Center in 2021. "Just an IV in my arm," he recalls, "and and it worked so well, and so quickly," he continues, "that I don't even remember much more than being wheeled into the operating room and then waking up in the recovery room—absolutely no pain or discomfort! My entire time at the hospital was under three hours."

Who should get a colonoscopy?

There are several factors that can increase your risk of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The most common is age—the average age for a colon cancer diagnosis is 68 for men, and 72 for women, while the average age for a rectal cancer diagnosis is 63 for both men and women.

Doctor greeting patientIt is recommended that most individuals get their first colonoscopy at age 45. If no precancerous polyps are detected, additional screenings every 10 years are also recommended. If you have an increased risk for developing colorectal cancer, such as a first-degree relative with a history of colorectal cancer, screening should start 10 years before the age of that first-degree relative's diagnosis. 

Risk factors include:

  • Genetics: colorectal cancer runs in families. If someone has a family history of colorectal cancer diagnoses, his or her chances of receiving that same diagnosis doubles. Click here for more from the American Cancer Society on heredity and colorectal cancer.

  • Inflammatory bowel disease: diseases like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer

  • Gender: men are more likely to receive a colorectal cancer diagnosis than women

Perhaps more importantly, around 55% of all colorectal cancers are attributed to lifestyle factors, which include:

  • Insufficient physical activity—or sedentary lifestyle
  • Obesity, or a BMI >30
  • Unhealthy diet—in particular, eating red or processed meat
  • High alcohol consumption
  • Smoking

It is worth noting that, "numerous studies have shown that people with healthy lifestyle behaviors have a 27% to 52% lower risk of [colorectal cancer] compared to those without these behaviors."

While the death rate from colorectal cancer has been dropping in both men and women for several decades, in the past 20 years that decline has accelerated—a decline that is attributed to a "widespread uptake of [colorectal] screening with colonoscopy" that increased from 20% in 2000 to 61% in 2018 with adults ages 50 and over. Indeed, preventative measures work.

At Door County Medical Center, a colorectal screening isn't embarrassing or time-consuming, and a small amount of discomfort and a few hours of your day can save your life. As Dr. Melarvie notes, "The results are worth it—removing non-cancerous polyps is part of the procedure, and that goes a long way toward preventing colon cancer. A colonoscopy is a preventative strategy in contrast to the stool blood test and Cologuard, which are early detection strategies - the polyps have to be big enough to show up on the test. With colonoscopy, the polyps are detected before any of the other tests would likely turn positive."

To schedule a colorectal screening at Door County Medical Center today call 920-746-1060.

Published 2/27/2023 6:30:00 AM
Tags: Awareness, colon cancer, colonoscopy, news, prevention

Search our blog

Popular Tags

3D Mammography   75   75th   acid reflux   addiction   adrc   advance directive   Affective   alcohol   Algoma   Algoma Community Wellness Center   als   alzheimer's disease   Ambassador   American College of Healthcare Executives   Angel Ball   anniversary   antibody treatment   anti-bullying   apnea   art   art for health   art gallery   arthritis   athlete   athletic edge camp   athletic trainer   Auxiliary   award   awards   Awareness   back   behavioral health   bill   bone marrow transplant   Bravo   Breast Cancer Awareness Month   breast cancer prevention   breastfeeding   Brian   brussels sprout slaw   Burkitt Leukemia   C.H.I.P.   cancer   cardiac   cardiopulmonary services   care manager   cataracts   catholic   catholic sisters   Celebrate Community   celebration   center   Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services   ceremony   certification   childcare   children   CHNA   cold flu prevention   colon cancer   colonoscopy   community   community health   Community outreach   Coronavirus   COVID 19   COVID-19 booster   COVID-19 vaccine   critical access hospital   CT scanner   cyberbullying   da Vinci robot   da Vinci Surgical System   daisy award   Daylight Savings Time   DCMC   DCMC Auxiliary   DCMC staff   dementia   dental clinic   dentist   depot   depression   dermatology   diabetes   diagnostic imaging   Diana Wallace   diet   directcare   Disorder   dogs   Domestic Violence Awareness   donate   donor   Door County   Door County CARES   door county half marathon   Door County Meals Cooperative   door county schools   Door County Triathlon   Door County YMCA   Door Healthy Weight Center   Door Orthopedic Center   Dr. Daniel Tomaszewski   Dr. Elizabeth Gaida   Dr. Mark Jordan   Dr. Michael St. Jean   Dr. Reisner   Dr. Rory Johnson   Dr. Shaun Melarvie   drive-through clinic   e-cigs   economic impact   economy   Edge 3D   Education   emergency department   employee art   employment   environment   environmental stewardship   exercise   eye surgery   fair   Family   family medicine   family practice   farmer's market   first responders   fitness   five   five star hospital   Florence Nightingale   flu   foot   foot pain   Foundation   fundraiser   gallery   gardening   general surgery   Gerald   GERD   gynecological procedures   handwashing   happy holidays   head   health   health insurance   health tips   healthcare   healthcare career   healthcare decisions   healthcare leader   healthcare leaders   healthy eating   heart   heart healthy   heart-attack   heartburn   Heartburn and Reflux Center   Help Our Heroes   hernia   hernia screening   hip replacement   history   HOPELINE   hospice   hospital   House and Garden Walk   HPV   Human Kindness Project   immunization   infant   insomnia   insurance workshop   international overdose awareness day   internships   job   job openings   jody boes   joint replacement   June   kelsie ladick   kids   Kids' health   kim   knee replacement   Lab Drive-Thru   LEAP   lice   life   LifeAssist   living will   luke spude   lyme disease   mammography   marinara sauce   medical services   medication   memory   memory clinic   memory loss   men's health   men's health month   mental health   mental illness   milk   ministry   ministry fund   mission and values   MRI   National Donate Life Month   national heath decisions day   national hospital week   National Nurses Week   National Organ Donation Day   National Women’s History Month   navigator   New Year   newborn   news   no surprise act   non-profits   North Shore Medical Clinic   Northeast Wisconsin Technical College   novel coronavirus   nurse   nursing   nursing excellence   nursing program   nutrition   nwtc   obesity   OB-GYN   open house   ophthalmologist   opioid   OPSU   organ   organ donor   orthopedics   outpatient surgery   outreach   pap test   patient   patient care   patient financial services   Patti Balestrieri   Paula Hobart   pediatrics   pelvic health   pets   physical activity   physical therapy   plastic surgery   podiatrist   post exercise tips   PRC   Prevea   prevention   primary care   Providers   race   recipe   recovery   recruitment   reflux   rehab services   resolutions   respiratory illness   robotic surgery   rotator cuff repair   RSV   running   rural   rural healthcare   SAAM   SAD   safe haven   scholarship   scholarships   school   School Nursing   Seasonal   senior life solutions   senior therapy   Seniors   services   sexual assault   Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner   Shop and Dine Day   Sister Bay   Sister Bay Clinic   skilled nursing   skilled nursing facility   skin cancer   Sleep   sleep disorder   sleep lab   smoking   snf   social justice   sparc   specialty providers   sports   sports medicine   sports training   St. Francis   star   state-of-the-art   Stephens   stroke patients   studer group   suicide awareness   suicide awareness month   suicide prevention   summer   summer programs   sun care   surgery   sweet dreams   swiggum   technology   Teen health   Teens   telemedicine   teleNICU   telepediatrics   The Angel Ball   The Community's Garden   The Healing Project   therapy   ticks   tissue donor   to   tooth fairy   training tips   Treatment   triathlon   urgent care   vaccination   vaccinations   vaccine   vaping   virtual appontments   virtual visit   vision   vlog   volunteers   wall   Washington Island   wellness   Wendy Ulrikson   women's center   women's health   work injuries   world breastfeeding week   Worrick   wound care   years   YMCA   youth workshops