Experts discuss importance of colon cancer early detection

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va (WDTV) - March marks Colon Cancer Awareness Month and experts say one of the most important things is early detection.

Groups and organizations say studies show that there's a rise in the rates among younger people.

We've heard over the years that people should typically have their first colonoscopy in their 40's or 50's. One of the things experts stress is early detection and how that can play a major role in the treatment.

"Most of the time you have no symptoms early on with colon cancer -- you don't have symptoms until it's late," said Anna-Marie Houtrouw, a nurse practitioner at United Hospital Center.

With colon cancer, you don't always see the symptoms in the early stages. Houtrouw says there are benefits to getting a full colonoscopy because if anything is detected, they can work to treat it sooner rather than later.

"It's kind of the best thing to go in and get the full colonoscopy because if you go in and there's nothing wrong, you don't need to be re-screened again for 10 years," Houtrouw said.

She has a theory as to why more younger people are being diagnosed, and it's something that can be prevented.

"Our diets are a lot worse than they used to be," Houtrouw said. "We're eating a lot more processed meats, we're not eating as much fresh fruits and vegetables and things with a lot of fiber in them."

One of the key members when it comes to patient support is Amber Shearer, who works with patient navigation at UHC. Part of her job is to help patients when it comes to added stress.

"We look at community resources, what resources are available for patients in terms of patient assistance for co-pays, transportation assistance, different problems like that that they don't know where to start," Shearer said.