Don’t be embarrassed to talk about colon and rectal cancer

March 12, 2012
Dr. Michael Stamos

Not sure when to get a colonoscopy? Will it hurt?

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and it’s a good time to talk to your primary care doctor about these questions and more, says Dr. Michael J. Stamos, chairman of UC Irvine’s Department of Surgery and president of the American Board of Colon & Rectal Surgery.

He suggests asking your doctor the following questions about colorectal health and digestive diseases:

  • Do I need a screening test for colon and rectal cancer?
  • What screening test(s) do you recommend?
  • How do I prepare? Do I need to change my diet or medication schedule?
  • What’s involved in the test? Will it be uncomfortable or painful?
  • Is there any risk?
  • When and from whom will I get results?

Stamos says the current standard of colonoscopy screening at 50 years old may be changing, particularly for high-risk patients with inflammatory bowel disease or personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps.

“More than 90 percent of the cancers appear in people over 50, but we’re seeing more and more people with colorectal health issues in their 40s,” says Stamos. “A lot has to do with your family history.”

Some people are reluctant to get a colonoscopy or speak to their doctor about colorectal health because they’re embarrassed to talk about that area of their body, he says.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 60 percent of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented if men and women 50 or older were screened routinely.  It is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.

“Don’t be a statistic,” says Stamos. “Don’t be embarrassed to death.”

Learn more about colorectal health ›