Have That Uncomfortable Conversation With Your Doctor

June 9, 2021 | Iowa Businesses Show Resilience During Pandemic Dr. Amber Tierney, MD, Gastroenterologist, The Iowa Clinic,

Discussing blood in your stool is an uncomfortable, even embarrassing conversation but an important, potentially lifesaving one, nonetheless.

“Blood in your stool is never normal. That should always be evaluated.” That’s the advice of Amber Tierney, MD, who sees plenty of reasons why each day as

a gastroenterologist at The Iowa Clinic. But it’s advice that’s often ignored. A bloody stool could mean something harmless and temporary like a hemorrhoid — a condition half of Americans over age 50 have – or it could be as serious as cancer. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in Iowa, and the third-leading cause of cancer deaths in men, so it’s vital to follow screening guidelines. The American Cancer Society recommends people of average risk get their first screening at age 45, and thanks to advancements in the field, you have more options than ever.

A colonoscopy is the most well-known colon cancer screening, but it’s not the only one. There are a wide variety of options that fall into two categories: stool-based tests and visual exams. Stool tests check for signs of colorectal cancer in your stool, by looking at either blood present in the sample or mutations. Visual exams, like colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy and CT colonography, provide a glimpse at the inside of your colon to look for the signs of colorectal cancer.

While sometimes unpleasant, colonoscopies and other screening tools can provide peace of mind if you’re experiencing symptoms – and potentially be lifesaving. An uncomfortable conversation now could prevent a serious condition later.