Colon Cancer is a type of cancer that is very common in the United States. Unlike other cancers such as prostate cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer and others, colon cancer is one that is potentially prevented.
A way to prevent the potential dangers of colon cancer is to have a test called a Colonoscopy.” In the 90’s, the National Polyp Study came out. Basically, it wasn’t just that it helped to identify cancers early, it actually saved lives. It was a mortality benefit in the neighborhood of 50-74%,” explains Dr. Travis Wiggins of Gastroenterology Consultants of Savannah.
Dr. Wiggins continues, “We have seen a 2-3% rate of reduction in the amount of colon cancers diagnosed in the US in the last 20 years. A large part of this is due to colon screening initiatives.”
In 2000, The CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) started covering colonoscopies for cancer screening. Since then, the US has enjoyed a reduction in the amount of colon cancers diagnosed within a single calendar year.
In recent months, another type of test that is helpful for colon cancer screenings has emerged. It is called FIT (Fecal Immunochemical Test). FIT is noninvasive and tests for blood in the stool. This test, if done consistently on an annual basis, can serve as a good tool for early detection and prevention.
If the FIT is positive, a patient must then have a colonoscopy. Dr. Wiggins highly recommends that anyone with a personal history or family history of colon issues to have a colonoscopy. “If you are experiencing bleeding, a change in bowel habits or any other higher risk symptoms, FIT is not an option. A colonoscopy is the recommended way to go.” says Dr. Wiggins.
A colonoscopy is a procedure that allows a close look inside the colon and rectum. A thin, hollow, lighted tube with a tiny video camera on the end is gently eased inside the colon and sends pictures to a TV screen. The exam takes about 30 minutes and the patients are given medicine to help them relax and sleep during the procedure.
Colon cancer screening should typically start at the age of 50. Some of the newer guidelines recommend screening the African American population starting at the age of 45. If a patient has an increased risk of colon cancer screenings should start at 40, and in some cases of family history, even younger.
Dr. Wiggins is affiliated with all the hospitals in Savannah, but every Wednesday you’ll find him in Springfield at Effingham Hospital. He is board certified in Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Internal Medicine.
Special areas of concentration for Dr. Wiggins are colon cancer screening, reflux disease, pancreatic and biliary diseases and radiofrequency ablation for Barrett’s esophagus.
Dr. Wiggins is very much a family man. He and wife, Jennifer, have three sons that he lovingly calls “The A Team,” Austin, Alex and Andrew. He is very involved with his boys and is a coach for a 7th grade basketball team and an 8U baseball team. He laughingly says, “I am a coach with hobby of being a Gastroenterologist.”
He and his entire family will be participating in the upcoming ‘Get Your Rear in Gear’ 5K hosted by the Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion. Gastroenterology Consultants of Savannah is in its 7th year of being one of the presenting sponsors. “This is a very worthwhile cause. All proceeds of the event will be used to provide screening kits and colonoscopies for low income and underserved patients in our area,” says Dr. Wiggins.
You can schedule an appointment to see Dr. Wiggins in the Physicians Center at Effingham Hospital by calling his office at (912)354-9447.