Feb. 26--Since March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month, we connected with Dr. Mark Rosenblatt, a gastrologist for Banner Health in North Colorado Medical Center to learn about the importance of a colonoscopy and what patients should expect when scheduled for this type of procedure.
Question -- What is the gastrointestinal colonoscopy procedure?
Answer -- It is a procedure that has been around since the 1960s. The procedure uses a scope -- a black hose -- with a light source on the tip and has working channels. The colon scope is inserted into the patient's rectum and advanced all the way around to the beginning of the colon. The procedure is commonly used to screen for the prevention of colon cancer, and during the procedure doctors search for grape-like-clusters of abnormal cells called polyps. Pre-cancerous polyps are called adenomas, and they can evolve into colon cancer in a sequence of approximately 10 years. The principle of the colonoscopy procedure is that by removing polyps, the majority of colon cancer is prevented. The detection rate of polyps is 25 percent in men and 15 percent in women.
Q -- How important are these tests?
A -- Data shows that these procedures are extremely important in terms of colon cancer prevention. In 2013, about 142,000 new cases of colorectal cancer were detected. More than 50,000 victims of colon cancer died last year. Colonoscopy procedures help reduce colon cancer and it has been very effective in the past 15 years in reducing the risks of this type of cancer.
Q -- Who does the procedure?
A -- Procedures should be done by a board-certified gastroenterologist, someone with a lot of training and at least three years of medicine experience and at least three years of gastroenterology. If patients are nervous for the procedure, they should ask doctors what their complication rates are like.
Q -- How can someone reduce the risk of colon cancer?
A -- Weight reduction for those who are overweight, alcohol moderation, tobacco cessation, and a diet high in fruits and vegetables. Also the intake of modest doses of aspirin and ibuprofen. And getting colonoscopies.
q -- When should patients have their first colonoscopy?
A -- At the age of 50 for average risk individuals. Younger ages if there is an increased risk.
Q -- Are there symptoms a person may feel that indicate a needed colonoscopy?
A -- The majority of victims of colon cancer do not have symptoms and when colonoscopy is performed the polyp findings are incidental. Some red flags are rectal bleeding and anemia.
Q -- How should patients prepare for a colonoscopy?
A -- Patients are referred to or reminded it is time for a colonoscopy. Instructions and specific diets are given to patients at that time. They will be on a liquid diet a day before the procedure.
Q -- What happens during procedure?
A -- First, patients are met and checked in through the registration process. From time of check-in to the time patients leave, procedure takes about two hours. They are given a gown and an IV is placed. They then enter the colonoscopy room, and doctors administer sedation. The colonoscopy procedure takes an average less than 30 minutes. After doctors are done, they let patients recover from sedation, and they are checked to make sure there are no implications before going home to rest.
Q -- What to patients do after procedure?
A -- Patients rest the day of the procedure. Because they are sedated, they need a ride home. The next day they can go back to work and eat a regular diet. A common after-effect can be some retained air that can produce gas cramps.
Q -- Are colonoscopies painful?
A -- Patients are sedated so they don't feel anything.
Q --What if results show something in the system?
A -- Detected polyps are removed during procedure, but if colon cancer is found, patients are spoken to and doctors make recommendations to see an oncologist and surgeon for further screening and treatment.
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