It’s Colon Cancer Awareness month, and that’s a big deal to the folks at Gastroenterology Associates of the Piedmont (GAP), who specialize in gastrointestinal health. It should be a big deal for you too, as colon health is vital to our overall well-being. Use this month as an opportunity to step into better health!
First, Let’s Get Your Rear in Gear
You’re invited to the 9th-Annual “Get Your Rear in Gear: Winston-Salem.” It’s part of a nationwide series of run/walk events where funds raised are invested right back into OUR community. The money raised helps local people—our neighbors—who are affected by colon cancer. It also increases education initiatives and screening levels.
This year’s Get Your Rear in Gear event will take place on Saturday, March 28th, at the beautiful Quarry Park in Winston-Salem (featured on the cover). This is a day of family-friendly fun that will include a live performance by Guilty Party (a band that features two of GAP’s physicians!) and feature vendors from local businesses.
For more information about the event, visit Donate.ColonCancerCoalition.org/Winston-Salem.
How does GYRIG impact the community?
Get Your Rear in Gear is an event that is part of the Colon Cancer Coalition. Nationwide, the Colon Cancer Coalition has granted over $5 million to support such causes. Locally, organizations may apply through the Colon Cancer Coalition for grant money to receive funds raised from one of their city’s sponsored events.
For example, last year, a check for $10,000 was presented to Cancer Services at the event. Cancer Services helps patients affected by cancer across North Carolina, but primarily from Forsyth, Davie, Stokes, and Yadkin counties. Services are provided at no charge to the patient and include support such as:
- Patient advocacy and information;
- Medication and financial assistance;
- Equipment, supplies, wigs, prostheses;
- Transportation to treatment;
- Wellness groups and lifestyle programs;
- Peer support.
Who is GAP, and how do they fit in to this cause?
GAP offers care to patients in need of colon cancer prevention and screening, as well as diagnosis, treatment, or management of digestive system issues. Its 16 physicians and five advanced practitioners take a teamwork approach to focus on staying up-to-date with the latest advancements in gastroenterology.
What is GAP’s Role in the Get Your Rear in Gear Event?
As a local gastroenterology practice and the presenting sponsor of the Colon Cancer’s Get Your Rear in Gear: Winston-Salem event, the cause is near and dear to the hearts of the GAP team. They love the opportunity to support their patients, and they welcome the opportunity to educate the community about colon cancer prevention methods. GAP knows that reaching even one person with the right message can impact a family for generations.
Did You Just Say, “Prevention?”
Yes! There are several “screening” methods out there for detection, but GAP’s goal is “prevention” with proper testing. Colonoscopy can prevent colon cancer because, over time, one may develop polyps in their colon. These polyps are growths that may have the potential to turn cancerous. Colonoscopy allows physicians to remove those polyps from a patient’s colon. Think it couldn’t happen to you? In 2019, GAP found pre-cancerous polyps in 44% of patients who underwent colonoscopy!
Here’s the Problem
Colon cancer is preventable, yet according to the American Cancer Society…
- 1 in 23 people develop colon cancer;
- It’s the 2nd-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States;
- It’s the 3rd-most common cancer.
Although current guidelines recommend that colon cancer screening begin between ages 45 and 50, diagnosis rates in younger adults have increased significantly in recent years. It is predicted that by the year 2030, incident rates in people ages 20-34 years will increase by 90%, and rates in people ages 35-49 will increase by 27.7%.
But, There’s Also a Solution
While the increase in colon cancer is concerning, the solutions come from:
- Increased awareness;
- Preventative testing;
- Early detection;
- More support for the patients.
This helps to save lives! When colon cancer is discovered early, the cure rate is about 90%.
What Are the Symptoms of Colon Cancer?
Colon cancer can be very slow-growing. Unfortunately, this often means that by the time symptoms present themselves, the cancer may be in advanced stages. These symptoms may include:
- Rectal bleeding;
- Change in bowel habits or the consistency of your stool;
- Feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely;
- Abdominal discomfort;
- Unexplained weight loss.
If you experience any of these symptoms and they do not resolve themselves, don’t hesitate to call your doctor for guidance!
Should I Have a Colonoscopy?
As a generalized recommendation, colonoscopy is the “gold standard” for anyone over the age of 50, though certain guidelines have lowered this recommendation to 45. This is because, as previously mentioned, it is the only screening method that can actually prevent colon cancer.
In addition to age-related factors, you have a greater risk of developing colon cancer if:
- You or a family member has a history of colon polyps or colon cancer;
- You are African-American;
- You are overweight;
- You have Lynch syndrome (an inherited condition that can pose a higher risk of developing certain cancers later in life);
- You smoke and/or drink alcohol on a regular basis.
No one gets excited about a colonoscopy, but most people who have had one agree that it was a much simpler experience than they expected. Regardless, the 2 hours you spend in the office is well worth the benefit of knowing you’re doing what’s best for your health. Don’t worry—with the advanced sedation methods that are available today, patients are asleep and should have no recollection of the procedure.
Tips from the Doctors
The doctors at GAP are passionate about their patients and about creating awareness in the community concerning the importance of colonoscopy. With that in mind, consider the following tips from their medical team:
- Take ANY symptoms seriously. There is no such thing as “normal” rectal bleeding.
- Learn your family history—but not only those cases that involve cancer. It’s just as important to know if a family member has a history of polyps or Lynch Syndrome.
- Maintain a healthy weight as a crucial factor for overall health and cancer prevention.
- Get a primary care provider, and schedule annual wellness appointments—an important factor in maintaining better overall health.
- Heard about other screening options? Talk with your doctor or one of GAP’s professionally trained staff members about the pros/cons of different methods.
It’s time to Get Your Rear in Gear for colon cancer prevention! Sign up for the event, and while you’re at it, have a discussion with your doctor (or one of GAP’s!) about what screening method is appropriate for your age/medical history. While you’re at it, educate your family and friends about how this potentially deadly disease can be prevented.
GAP offices are located in Winston-Salem, Kernersville, and Clemmons. For more information on services and providers, call 336-448-2427 or visit gapgi.com.