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Getting Checked for Colon Cancer Can Save Lives

Published On: Apr 17 2014 09:01:40 PM CDT

Angelo Caruso undergoes colonoscopy to raise awareness of colon cancer.

Cancer is the second leading cause of American deaths every year, only behind heart disease. And prevention through detection is a key to treatment, especially for one very dangerous form of cancer.

Colorectal cancer is the third-leading cancer among men and women, and is defined as when malignant cells in the large intestine grow out of control, usually as a non-cancerous polyp. Over years, polyps can develop into a no-longer disguised, deadly disease. However, the disease can be discovered before it begins to do serious damage.

Dr. Elber Camacho is the medical director of the Cancer Center at Desert Regional Medical Center, and said, "If it's caught early, even before it's malignant as an early polyp, then it doesn't have the chance to develop into an overt malignancy."

Doctors diagnosed 142,000 Americans with the disease last year, and more than 50,000 cases died in 2013. It's a disappointing number, considering the multiple screening options available.

"It is indeed very sad that we do not follow the recommendations of  screening, meaning that the first colonoscopy be performed at age 50, and  from then on, every 10 years in those patients without polyps. And if indeed every american were to follow that recommendation, colon cancer would  virtually be non-existent," said Camacho.

50 is the normal age to be on the lookout, but it can strike earlier. KESQ and CBS Local 2 sports anchor Angelo Caruso was diagnosed with the disease in 2012, only at 28 years old. And to dispell the rumors and fears of having a colonoscopy, he went on camera to show what it's like.

Colonoscopies are mostly covered by insurance providers with a referral or recommendation by your doctor. The actual procedure usually lasts around a half-hour, and patients are normally under conscious sedation to not remember the actual procedure.

Camacho said there's no good reason to put off getting checked if you're the right age, even though he's heard all the excuses. "Many people, they tell me, 'Oh, I was too busy, 50 years of age came, there were weddings, there were grandchildren being born', many different excuses can be found for not doing the procedure. But clearly, it is a life-saving procedure."

Colorectal cancer isn't limited to just men and women ages 50 or older. If you have family history, or are showing symptoms like blood in the stool or rectal discomfort, get checked. And if you're over 50 and haven't gotten a colonoscopy, do it. It could potentially save your life.