March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. We use this time of year as a helpful reminder that colorectal cancer screening is critically important. Colorectal cancer starts out as small growths known as polyps. During a colorectal screening test, if these polyps are discovered, they can be removed before they develop into colon cancer. When these polyps are removed in their entirety the development of colon cancer is prevented. The best screening test for colon cancer is a colonoscopy. This test is performed by placing a small camera on the end of a long tube into the colon and evaluating all surfaces for polyps or any other abnormalities. The test is done in about 30 min and has a very low complication rate.
Colon cancer is extremely curable if detected and treated early. However, early colon cancer is usually silent and gives patients little to no symptoms. This is why we recommend screening colonoscopy to many patients who have no symptoms but meet recommendations based on age, family history and other factors. The mortality rate from colon cancer in the United States is dropping because of screening colonoscopy. Colon cancer unfortunately is still a leading cause of death in the U.S. because it is discovered at a late stage, thus stressing the necessity for screening colonoscopy.
If one develops colon cancer, surgery would be required for an attempt at cure. Advances in surgical techniques have improved outcomes and increased survival in patients with colon cancer. One of those treatment options that has great potential in treating colon cancer is robotic surgery. Robotic surgery allows a surgeon to achieve excellent results in treating colon cancer as well as providing smaller incisions and faster recovery. After robotic surgery the patients have less pain, have a reduced hospital stay and return to work faster than with conventional colon cancer surgery.