‘It can cost you your life’ – The Importance of Colon Cancer Screening

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LEWISBURG -- Colon cancer is so prevalent in northeastern and central Pennsylvania, a doctor in Lewisburg wants to underscore how important screening really is.

Nationwide, in the general population, one out of every 20 people will develop colon cancer and 50,000 people a year will die from colon cancer.

Those statistics are from Dr. Joe Gallagher, the medical director of Central Penn Endoscopy Center in Lewisburg. He says it's the screening that can make all the difference.

"You need to have some type of colon cancer screening. It can cost you your life if you don't," said Dr. Gallagher.

Dr. Gallagher invited us to the center, a private facility built about 10 years ago so people could avoid the hassle of a hospital. He and his partners say they wanted a state-of-the-art center that would make it easy for people to get a colonoscopy.

For many people, that means beginning at age 50 and every 10 years after that, but those are just guidelines. That recommendation could change depending on your family history.

Simply put, a colonoscopy looks for polyps.

"A polyp is just a benign tumor. In and of itself, it won't hurt you. But over time it will grow, and it will take seven to ten years before it will grow and turn into a cancer."

A colonoscopy revealed polyp on Dr. Gallagher himself.

"A very small polyp, three to four millimeters," he said.

It was removed, he's fine, and he'll be monitored a bit more closely from now on.

"Colon cancer, if caught early, even if it is cancer and caught early, is curable often times. But once it spreads to other organs it becomes difficult to cure," he added.

Dr. Gallagher also talked about other tests that are out there to check for colon cancer. He says they may have some usefulness for certain patients, but the recommendation is still a colonoscopy.

Talk with your family doctor about the best time for you to be screened.