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March 1, 2019


Learn More at “Cookies and Colons” on March 7


Photo: Dr. Michael Williams and Dr. Benjamin Schlais

March 1, 2019


Learn More at “Cookies and Colons” on March 7

SHAWANO, Wis – March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. Colorectal cancer – cancer of the colon or rectum – is the third most common cancer in the U.S. and the second leading cause of cancer deaths for both men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

It is also one of most preventable and treatable forms of cancer, if it is caught in early stages.

“Regular screenings are the key to catching colorectal cancer early,” said Dr. Michael Williams, with ThedaCare Physicians-Shawano. 

The most typical screening method for colorectal cancer is a colonoscopy. During a colonoscopy, the patient’s colon is viewed via an internal camera while the patient is under sedation. Other tests are available that are not as invasive. Those tests are not considered to be as effective in screening for colon cancer. Patients should talk with their health care provider to determine which test is best for them.

“Anyone aged 50 to 75 should be screened a minimum of once every 10 years; anyone younger than 50 with a family history of colorectal cancer should talk with their doctor about early screening.”

The most common symptoms of colorectal cancer are:

  • A change in bowel habits
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Weakness and fatigue, along with nausea or vomiting
  • Unexplained weight loss

“Colorectal cancer symptoms don’t often stand out. That’s why regular screening tests are essential. If caught early, colorectal cancer is highly treatable,” explained Dr. Williams.

According to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, colorectal cancer is most often found in people over age 50. For men, 68 is the average for a colon cancer diagnosis; for women, it is age 72. Rectal cancer is most often found in both men and women around age 63.

According to recent statistics, the number of people younger than 50 who are diagnosed with colorectal cancer is rising. This makes it especially important for those with a family history of colorectal cancer to talk with their doctors.

Lifestyle choices can help prevent colorectal cancer. The CDC recommends adults should:

  • Be physically active
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Avoid excessive alcohol
  • Avoid smoking
  • Eat a healthy diet: limit consumption of processed and red meat; eat more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains

Dr. Williams noted the CDC estimates some 140,000 people in the U.S. will receive a colorectal cancer diagnosis in 2019.

“That’s a significant number, but since the 1980s, survival rates for colorectal cancer have been increasing because of greater awareness of the disease and improved screening,” said Dr. Williams. “Currently the five-year survival rate for colorectal cancer, when found in the early stages, is 90 percent. That’s why we stress regular screening for everyone and early screening for those with a family history of colorectal cancer.”

Providers at ThedaCare Medical Center-Shawano and ThedaCare Physicians-Shawano are working together to encourage patients to have regular colonoscopy screenings and talk with their doctors about any unusual health symptoms.

The hospital and clinic are hosting a “Cookies and Colons” session on Thursday, March 7, at 5:00 p.m. in the Wolf River Room at ThedaCare Physicians-Shawano. Family Medicine Physicians Dr. Michael Williams and Dr. Benjamin Schlais will present information about colon cancer and colonoscopies. Staff from ThedaCare Medical Center-Shawano’s Surgery Center as well as Lynn Zeinert, colonoscopy coordinator, will join them.

The public is invited to attend the presentation and a question-and-answer session will follow.

This article is part I of a III part series. You can find part II here.

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves a community of more than 600,000 residents and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the regions. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 31 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.

Media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public Relations Specialist at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.