Taking care of yourself, from the inside out

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Dr. Priti Pandya of Smyrna/Vinings GI Specialists of Georgia is celebrating communication and change for the practice this month. The entire GI Specialists of Georgia practice joins medical professionals throughout the country in spreading the word to promote National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. 

Did you know that colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) is the second leading cause of death from cancer? Did you know it’s also the third most common cancer for both men and women in the United States? These are not questions that we typically want to think about. But, as Dr. Pandya points out, awareness leads to prevention, and that’s what National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is all about.

“Screening is the number one way to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer,” explains Dr. Pandya. “Colorectal cancer almost always develops from precancerous polyps in the colon or rectum. With regular screening, the polyps can be detected and then removed before they become cancerous. Screening tests can also detect cancer early when treatment works best.”

Dr. Pandya stresses that a colonoscopy is the gold standard screening method. She is not alone, as the procedure is also recommended by the American Cancer Society and the American Gastroenterological Association. A colonoscopy is the preferred screening test because of its accuracy and its ability to diagnose and remove polyps in the entire colon.

A colonoscopy is a safe, short endoscopic procedure that allows an endoscopist to view the inner lining of your large intestine, and parts of the smaller bowel by using a flexible tubular instrument. Patients are under mild anesthesia for a short period of time. When necessary, polyps are removed and sent to pathology for evaluation. Dr. Pandya notes that GI Specialists makes it easy to schedule a colonoscopy. A prior office visit is not necessary, and GI Specialists even has a scheduling hotline at 1.888.MYCOLON. You won't forget that number!

Dr. Pandya reminds us that individuals at average risk should begin screening soon after turning 50 and then continue getting screened at regular intervals. She emphasizes that there are risk factors that can require someone to get tested earlier, for example family history or patient ethnicity. Someone with direct relatives with colon polyps or cancer would start at age 40 or 10 years before the relative was diagnosed and African Americans should start at age 45 for general screening. Also, patients who have been diagnosed with early breast cancer and those with high-risk genetic mutations should be considered for earlier screening. 

Another significant factor in raising awareness is communicating what symptoms to look for, according to Dr. Pandya. Symptoms include:

• changes in bowel habits
• alternating constipation and diarrhea
• abdominal bloating, cramps or discomfort

Although March is a busy month for GI Specialists of Georgia, the Board Certified physicians are equally busy during the year providing Smyrna/Vinings residents with committed medical care. The Smyrna/Vinings location is part of a larger network of 22 physicians, seven additional offices and three endoscopy centers throughout the Northwest Atlanta area. GI Specialists of Georgia physicians treat all disorders of the digestive tract including disorders of the liver and pancreas.

Join others during National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and schedule that colonoscopy that has been on the “to do” list for some time. For a screening colonoscopy appointment, call 678.741-.2313.  For more information about GI Specialists of Georgia or to schedule an office appointment, go to  GI Specialists of Georgia is located at 4441 Atlanta Rd, SE Ste 204 Smyrna.

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