Why I care about colon cancer screening

illustration of colon, colon cancer screening, prevent diseases before they happen, cancer prevention strategies, fecal occult blood testing, blood in the stool, dr rachel silva, primary care, early cancer screenings

When I set out on my path to medical school, I knew I would work in an aspect of medicine in which I would have the opportunity to work with patients long-term and be able to help focus on various aspects of the whole patient.  These goals have driven me to be a primary care doctor here at Hennepin Healthcare.  As a primary care doctor, my goal is always to treat patients as people first.  I also aim to work with patients to be their healthiest selves in all aspects: physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially.  To me, one of the most fundamental parts of my primary care practice is not just to treat illness, but to work to prevent diseases before they happen.  I love discussing vaccines and cancer prevention strategies as these are ways we can work together to help them not get sick in the first place.  This is why I am passionate about colon cancer screening.

One patient I will never forget was Mrs. M, an 85-year-old woman who had a wonderful and vibrant spirit.  In our visits, we would talk about how she smoked and how she knew it was not good for her, but how hard it was to quit.  We also talked about how to work to better control her blood pressure and diabetes.  She had never been checked for colon cancer.  Other doctors before me had asked her if she wished to do stool testing to check for blood or a colonoscopy to check for early cancer, but she had not desired this.  Unfortunately, one day she began to have some bleeding with her bowel movements.  After evaluation, a colonoscopy discovered a tumor in her rectum, the last part of the colon.  Her cancer was found too late.  On our last visit, Mrs. M turned to me and said, “I wish I had had those tests the doctors had told me about.”

I remember Mrs. M’s words when I think about talking with my patients about colon cancer screening.  We have a few different ways to check for problems early and I want my patients to have the best chance of stopping cancer before it starts.  Fecal occult blood testing is a stool test we can do to detect blood in the stool and may signal problems in the colon.  A colonoscopy is a test using a camera to look into the colon itself and find any problem areas (called polyps) and remove them before they grow.  These tests are important and save lives.  I recommend all patients over 50 or patients with certain bowel problems or a family history of colon cancer talk to their provider about colon cancer screening today.  Together we can help stop colon cancer from getting in the way of your health and the health of the ones you love.

dr rachel silva, colon cancer screening, prevent diseases before they happen, cancer prevention strategies, fecal occult blood testing, blood in the stool, primary care, early cancer screeningsDr. Rachel Silva, MD, MPH, is board-certified in Internal Medicine and cares for adult patients with acute and chronic illnesses in clinic and hospital settings. She works as an educator for medical students, medical resident trainees, and her patients. She is fluent in Spanish and enjoys working with Latino patients. Dr. Silva is committed to helping each patient come up with an approach to healthcare that takes into account the complexity of their life experience.

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