Dr. Sue Ellen Petty was in studio Monday morning to talk to WPKY about Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and Dr. Petty told listeners that colon cancer is the second leading cause of death in Kentucky, mostly notably because routine screenings in the state are low. If caught early enough colon cancer is curable or even completely avoidable and screenings could lead to the discovery and subsequent removal of cancerous and pre-cancerous polyps.

Dr. Petty told listeners that colon cancer begins as polyps that develop on the lining of the large intestine. After several years those polyps can become cancerous, therefore early discovery is essential to colon health. Dr. Petty suggested that for those who are at moderate risk of colon cancer screenings should begin at age 50, while those who are at higher risk should start earlier, or around age 40. However, for those who have several close family members who have been diagnosed it’s best to begin screenings ten years before the family member’s age at the time of diagnosis. Dr. Petty did say that for those at moderate risk there are other screening options besides a colonoscopy but advised that it was still a good idea to begin colonoscopies at age 50.

Even if cancerous polyps are found during a screening, if they are found before the cancer matriculates chances of beating the disease increase significantly. Because colon cancer begins in the lining of the large intestine it could take years for it to reach lymph nodes and blood vessels, which means treatment success rates when found early are extremely high. Getting routine screenings will increase your likelihood of finding cancerous cells early.

Dr. Petty then mentioned that most people she’s spoken with have dreaded the prep work for a colonoscopy than the actual colonoscopy; but, health care advancements are making prep not as big of a deal as it used to be. Originally people would have to drink a gallon of colon clearing liquid the day before, but now the method includes less liquid and is a spilt dose, half of the prep is done the night before with the other half done around 6 hours before the procedure. Dr. Petty said that while it’s not something someone may want to do on their birthday, if it means living a longer and healthier life, the dreaded prep work is worth it.

Most insurance providers do pay for colonoscopies and there are options for those without insurance through the Kentucky Cancer Program. While most insurance providers don’t require doctor’s referrals for colonoscopies Dr. Petty did suggest going to your primary care doctor before getting one. Primary care doctors will help you make the right decisions surrounding the procedure and will document the screening for your overall health.

Dr. Petty then suggested some tips on being preventive in your fight against colon cancer: eat a lean diet low in fat, exercise consistently, lose weight if needed, and stay up to date on screenings. Dr. Petty also mentioned that even if you think you’re too young to worry about colon cancer it’s still a good idea to take precautions. If you notice any distinct change in bowel movements or notice blood in your stool contact your primary care provider. Dr. Petty said that the youngest person she diagnosed with colon cancer was in their early 30’s, so it’s never too early to take the time to take care of yourself.

For more information you can always call Dr. Petty’s office at 270-365-0332.

You can catch the full interview with Dr. Sue Ellen Petty below.