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GREENFIELD, Ind.–Your colon has a story to tell. If examined by a doctor, it could say whether or not you have colon cancer. Dr. Paula Hall is with the American Health Network and practices in Greenfield. She says a colonoscopy could be what finds the cancer early.

“It looks for the precancerous lesions, the polyps that people start growing in their 40s and 50s, and if we can find those polyps and take them out, then people don’t get colon cancer,” said Hall.

LISTEN: Dr. Paula Hall talks colon cancer

She said that early detection is the key to preventing colon cancer. She and American Health Network are trying to let people know about the importance of exams during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, which is March.

You may have heard some horrible stories about the intrusion of the colonoscopy. Hall said it’s not as uncomfortable as you might think.

“The exam’s really not bad. With a colonscopy most people complain about the clean out the day before,” she said. “The colonoscopy examines the colon, which is the lower part, the last part of the digestive system, and examines your rectum, which is kind of your poop shoot, there.”

If you just can’t stomach the idea of a colonoscopy, and you’re 45 or older, Hall said she’d be okay with you getting one of two other exams. One checks for blood in the stool, and it’s an annual exam.

“That’s one that you just send back to your doctor. You get some poop and put it on a card and send it back to your doctor and they look and see if there’s microscopic blood in there,” she said.

Another exam is for cancer DNA, which you might hear ads for on the radio.

“That one you do every three years.”

Hall said the problem with those tests are that if they find cancer, they’re finding it later than the colonoscopy would, which means there’s a chance it could have already spread to the lymph nodes. If you catch it early, the chances for survival are nine in ten. If it has already spread to the lymph nodes, the chances for survival drop to seven in ten, or lower.

Hall added that many younger people are getting colon cancer. It may have to do with the way our diets have changed as a country. If you are younger and you find blood in your stool, Hall said it’s important that the doctor doesn’t dismiss it as hemorrhoids. She said you should insist that the doctor conduct further tests.