Colon cancer – Getting screened can save your life | Shalini Kanneganti, MD

Celebrities have a great capacity to bring attention to a cause or event. In 2000, Today” show co-anchor Katie Couric wanted to call attention to colon cancer since she had lost her husband to the disease.

Celebrities have a great capacity to bring attention to a cause or event. In 2000, Today” show co-anchor Katie Couric wanted to call attention to colon cancer since she had lost her husband to the disease. She had a colonoscopy on live television and there was an increase in people getting screened around the country. More recently Dan Whitney, better known as Larry the Cable Guy turned 50 and got a colonoscopy. He did a video about it and posted it on YouTube that went viral.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer diagnosis in the U.S. affecting both men and women. It is one of the most treatable and preventable forms of cancer and still almost 55,000 Americans each year are dying from this cancer.

March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month and because colon cancer is asymptomatic for most patients; being screened is the best way to detect colon cancer before it becomes advanced. People most at risk for colorectal cancer include:

  • People 50 and older

  • People with a family history of colorectal cancer or benign (non-cancerous) colorectal polyps

  • People with personal histories of inflammatory bowel disease

  • People with family histories of inherited colorectal cancer or inherited colorectal problems

If you don’t have any of these risk factors, it is recommended that everyone get screened when they turn 50. The gold standard for screening is still a colonoscopy and while the procedure may sound intimidating it is really quite benign.

The doctor uses an endoscope, which is a flexible tube with a camera on the end, to visualize the colon and search for any polyps or tumors. Patients are put under twilight sedation to make them comfortable. During the procedure, the doctor will remove any polyps and check them for precancerous cells. If any tumors are found that have become cancerous, surgery is usually the main course of treatment. Overall, a colonoscopy usually takes only 20 to 30 minutes and patients are able to resume their daily activities the same day.

You should also know that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that was passed in 2010, waives the coinsurance and deductible for many colon cancer screening tests including a colonoscopy. In 2013, clarification to the preventative screening benefits under the law means that patients with private insurance are now not liable for cost sharing when a pre-cancerous polyp is removed during a colonoscopy screening. Medicare patients are still required to pay coinsurance when a polyp is removed, but efforts are underway to change this as well.

Many people don’t want to get a colonoscopy because they think it will be painful or embarrassing. Don’t let your fear get in the way of taking care of yourself. Too many people never get screened and by the time they realize there’s a problem their cancer is highly advanced.

Franciscan Health System has a number of locations in Pierce and King Counties where you can schedule a colonoscopy exam. Visit our website at to find the location nearest you.


About the writer: Shalini Kanneganti, MD, is a fellowship-trained and board certified surgeon in the treatment of colon and rectal diseases with Franciscan Surgical Associates at St. Joseph in Tacoma. Need a doctor? Call the Franciscan Physician Referral Line toll-free: 1-888-825-3227.

More in Life

Two free park days in April | Washington State Parks Commission

For April 14 and April 22, you won’t need a Discover Pass to visit state parks.

If you could turn back time, would you?

If you could, would you take it all back? Every misunderstanding, cross… Continue reading

While focusing on athletic endurance, this book also relates to everyday life

You need a shave. It’s been awhile and, though you’ve been grooming… Continue reading

Explores the Civil Rights Movement with Congressman John Lewis | Pierce County READS

Congressman Lewis of Georgia is one of the key figures of the Civil Rights Movement and the only remaining speaker alive from the Big Six Leaders that organized the 1963 March on Washington.

Read the first two books before tackling ‘Banished’

Well, look at you. And you do — ten times a day,… Continue reading

Buckley Kiwanis names Students of the Month

For January, students from White River High School, Glacier Middle School and Carbonado Historical School District were chosen.

Local students named to WSU honor roll

Students from Black Diamond to Sumner found themselves on WSU’s President’s Honor Roll.

It may take time to sink into but ‘How to Stop Time’ is worth the read

The big hand is on the “12.” And the little hand is,… Continue reading

Breakfast for the Birds coming Feb. 21

Celebrate the coming of spring with breakfast, fun hats and Ciscoe Morris.

With help from ‘The Grumpy Gardener,’ you can prepare for spring | The Bookworm

Normally, you’d never allow it. Holes in your yard? No way! Trenches… Continue reading

How to keep The Courier-Herald visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections, and you might see less news. Here’s how you can fix that.