Beat The Odds: A Colonoscopy Could Save Your Life
Mar 21, 2016 01:42PM
● By Ryan Frisch
Are you the picture of health? Health is personal. And it’s really personal to the 132,700 Americans diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2015. In the U.S., colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer death. Last year, approximately 49,700 people died from the disease.
With the aging population, the estimated number of new cases for 2016 is expected to be 135,000, and the lifetime probability of someone developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 20.
But it doesn’t have to be this way, according to Muhammad Memon, MD, gastroenterologist at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center. “Screening is the number one way to prevent colon cancer because it can find cancer in the early stages or before it even has the chance to grow or develop,” he says.
Typically, colon cancer begins as a slow-growing, small growth in the colon. Over time, these precancerous growths — called polyps — can turn into cancer.
“Often, most people have no symptoms of the disease,” says Memon. “You could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why having a screening test is so important.”
Symptoms may include:
- Blood in or on the stool (bowel movement)
- Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that do not go away
- Losing weight without reason
People with no family history of colorectal cancer or polyps or any other risk factors should start screening at age 50. Anyone with a personal or family history of colon cancer or polyps should start sooner. “Risk increases with age,” says Memon. “More than 90 percent of colorectal cancers occur in people age 50 and older.”
There are several ways to screen for colorectal cancer, including:
- Colonoscopy, every 10 years, considered the “gold standard” of tests. While the patient is sedated, this procedure uses a thin tube with a light and camera attached to visualize the colon and detect any problems or diseases of the anus, rectum, and colon. If the doctor sees suspicious growths, they can be removed during the procedure.
- High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT), stool test, or fecal immunochemical test (FIT), every year.
- Sigmoidoscopy, every five years, with FOBT every three years. This procedure uses a thin tube (similar to a colonoscopy) to look at the lower part of the colon.
- Stool DNA tests. These tests look for abnormal sections of genetic material from cancer or polyp cells in the stool.
Don’t confuse a colonic with a colonoscopy
Some people substitute getting a colonoscopy with a colonic. But a colonoscopy does things a colonic could never do, and Memon discourages patients from using colonic cleanses.
“There are no medical reasons for colonics, and they can cause damage to the bowels over time and may cause tears and ruptures in the colon,” he says.
“A colonoscopy is a medical, endoscopic procedure used to diagnose colorectal cancer and polyps that could become cancerous, as well as identify reasons for rectal bleeding and altered bowel habits,” says Memon. “The colonic just flushes out the colon.”
Colonics often use water in hydrotherapy, or colonic irrigation, to clean out the colon, similar to how an enema works in ridding the bowels of waste.
The belief is that removing feces that line the intestinal walls can be advantageous for overall health and cause you to lose weight. Memon says the weight loss is only temporary and not worth the risk to the digestive track.
“Colonoscopy is the gold standard of examinations because it not only finds polyps that can become cancer, it also removes them, thus preventing colon cancer,” says Memon.
The colonoscopy procedure
Before a colonoscopy, the patient ingests a preparation medication that clears the colon so that physicians have an optimal view when screening for cancer and other diseases. Anesthesia is used during the procedure to make it more comfortable. Memon’s goal is provide a rapid and painless experience while giving the patient’s primary care physician a detailed and accurate examination of the digestive tract.
New GI suites, close to home
Four new gastrointestinal (GI) suites opened in December at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center, offering an attractive and modern atmosphere for colonoscopies, upper endoscopies and other diagnostic procedures of the GI tract. Specially trained nurses care for patients as they undergo screenings, keeping them comfortable and relaxed while board-certified gastroenterologists perform the procedures on an outpatient basis. Patients go home the same day.
The GI suites are equipped with the latest high-definition endoscopes to perform endoscopies and colonoscopies. They provide greater clarity of images, which help to save lives.
“The new scopes provide us with a better visualization of the environment than the previous generation of technology,” says Memon. “This allows gastroenterologists to look at tissue in much greater detail so that they can be more accurate in making diagnoses.”
Schedule a colonoscopy today. The procedure is covered by most health insurance plans. To find a physician to refer you for a colonoscopy, call 214-947-6296 or visit Answers2.org.
By Angel Biasatti