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Tennova Healthcare Marks Colorectal Awareness Month

Health System Encourages Education and Awareness Screening is the Key to Early Detection

By Babu Rao, M.D.,

Men and women approaching age 50 often shudder when their doctor informs them it’s almost time for a screening colonoscopy. But regular screening, beginning at age 50, is the key to preventing colorectal cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States, reports the American Cancer Society. And, when men and women are combined, it’s the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.

“The good news is that with early detection – through a colonoscopy – the survival rate dramatically increases. If colon cancer is detected before it spreads, the five-year survival rate is approaching 100 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute, but if not caught before the cancer spreads to other organs, the survival rate dips to about 10 percent,” said Babu Rao, M.D., Gastroenterology with Tennova Healthcare – Dyersburg Regional.

What is a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a procedure that allows a doctor, usually a gastroenterologist, to see inside the colon and rectum. Used as either a screening test or a diagnostic tool, it can help your doctor investigate early signs of cancer in the colon and rectum, as well as help diagnose the causes of unexplained changes in bowel habits such as abdominal pain, rectal bleeding and weight loss. While you’re sedated, the doctor will insert a thin, long, flexible, lighted tube (a colon scope) into your rectum and slowly guide it into your colon. The scope transmits an image of the inside of the colon onto a screen so the doctor can carefully examine the lining of the colon.

If anything abnormal is observed, such as a polyp (growth), it is painlessly removed at that time and later tested in a laboratory for signs of cancer. Since most colorectal cancer begins as a polyp, removing polyps early is an effective prevention method. Your doctor can also take samples from abnormal –looking tissues (a biopsy) so that suspicious areas can be examined.

A colonoscopy takes 30 to 60 minutes, but you will need to remain at your doctor’s facility for 1 to 2 hours until the sedative wears off.

Most common risk factors?
Risk level for colon cancer varies according to age, gender, ethnic background, and overall health and lifestyle. Factors that increase your risk level include:
– Being age 50 or older
– Being African-American
– Having certain digestive diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or other inflammatory bowel disease
– Having a family or personal history of polyps or colorectal cancer
– Eating a high-fat diet

In addition, if you are physically inactive, obese, or a smoker, you have a greater chance of developing colorectal cancer. Increasing your activity level may help reduce your risk.

How Often?
“The American Cancer Society recommends that screening for colon cancer should begin at age 50 for both men and women who are of average risk for developing colorectal cancer. Your doctor can advise you about the right time to begin, as well as testing frequency, but industry guidelines suggest that a repeat screening be conducted every 10 years for adults with normal risk. People at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer may need to be tested earlier than age 50 and more frequently,” said Dr. Rao.

Depending on your age, a colonoscopy screening may be a covered “wellness” test under your insurance plan, and most plans cover a colonoscopy completely as a follow-up test or diagnostic tool. Check with your insurance provider and your doctor’s office for help scheduling a screening exam.

Colon Cancer Myths
Discover the truth about the most common myths about colon cancer from the American Cancer

Myth 1: Colorectal cancer is a man’s disease.
Truth: Colorectal cancer is just as common among women as men.

Myth 2: Colon cancer can’t be prevented.
Truth: Colon cancer often starts with a small polyp. If found early, doctors can remove the polyp and stop colon cancer before it begins.

Myth 3: African-Americans aren’t at risk for colon cancer.
Truth: African-Americans are diagnosed with and die from colorectal cancer at higher rates than any other racial or ethnic group.

Myth 4: Age isn’t a factor in developing colon cancer.
Truth: More than 90 percent of people diagnosed with colon cancer are ages 50 and older.

Myth 5: It’s better not to get tested for colon cancer because it’s fatal regardless.
Truth: Colon cancer is treatable. With early detection, the five-year survival rate is 90 percent.

For more information or a referral to Dr. Rao, call 1-855-TENNOVA (836-6682) or visit

About the Author
Babu Rao, M.D., is a gastroenterologist who sees patients at Tennova Digestive Health – Dyersburg located at 420 Wilkinson Drive in Dyersburg, TN. Dr. Rao is also a member of the medical staff at Tennova Healthcare – Dyersburg Regional.

About Tennova Healthcare
One of the state’s largest health networks, Tennova Healthcare includes 16 hospitals and more than 115 physician clinics. The combined network has approximately 2,600 licensed beds, 2,800 physicians on the combined active medical staffs, and 9,000 employees, with more than 70,000 admissions and 465,000 emergency department visits each year. Learn more at


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