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Healthwise: Colonoscopy

March 21, 2012

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and doctors at Martha Jefferson Hospital are encouraging people to get a colonoscopy. With an endoscope and a screen, doctors like Daniel Pambianco can find potentially dangerous growths during the procedure.

"When we're doing the screening we're actually looking for these growths calls polyps. These are pre-cancerous lesions," said Dr. Daniel Pambianco, of Charlottesville Gastroenterology Associates.

Contrary to other preventative screenings like mammograms or prostate exams, during which a doctor might just recognize an abnormality, doctors are able to treat a patient during a colonoscopy.

"It's not just looking at something and identifying it. Often times these polyps, which are small growths, if they're left to grow they can become cancerous. Therefore, by removing them, we can remove them at the benign stage or even a very early cancer stage, so it can be curative," Dr. Pambianco explained.

Dr. Pambianco recommends everyone get screened. He recommends a first screening at the age of 50. He says for people who are at more risk, such as African Americans, you should have a first screening at the age of 45.

"It's more than just a screening examination. It is potentially preventative and potentially curative," said Dr. Pambianco.

Doctors say the procedure is literally a life-saver. They estimate 1,500 Virginians will die from colon cancer each year, but more than half of those deaths could be prevented with this rather routine procedure.

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