When a physician recommends a colonoscopy, a patient may want to consider a big difference between this procedure and other cancer screenings. Colon cancer is the only cancer that can be prevented by screening.
Drs. Paul Teget and Jerod Grove, general surgeons, wanted to share this and other information about the disease in March, which is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
The surgeons, who are based at Southwind Surgical at Hays Medical Center, perform colonoscopies and other procedures at the St. Rose Health Center Surgery Suite. They also are in town regularly to see patients in the second-floor Specialty Clinic.
“Colon polyps, which cause colon cancer, can be removed during a colonoscopy,” Dr. Teget said. “Therefore, the procedure prevents cancer.
“Other types of cancer screenings are important to catch the disease early,” he added. “For example, routine mammography, prostate exams and PAP tests are always important.”
Dr. Teget emphasized that while other colon screenings are available, colonoscopy is the “gold standard. It prevents colon cancer and provides the only way of evaluating tissues when looking at the colon.
“Colonoscopies differ from other imaging studies such as CT colonography and barium enema procedures,” he elaborated. “A colonoscopy is the best option for several reasons.”
First, Dr. Teget said, there is no radiation exposure with a colonoscopy; this is unlike imaging studies. Second, colorectal cancer occurs in cells that line the entire large intestine and the physician can get a clear picture during a colonoscopy. The visualization in a colonoscopy is superior to other testing. And third, there is no method to obtain tissue or remove polyps during an imaging study.
“Therefore, if something is detected during an imaging study, the patient will need to undergo yet another bowel preparation, take another day off work and make an additional trip to the Surgery Suite.”
Dr. Grove said he and Dr. Teget realize a patient may be apprehensive about a colonoscopy.
“This is why we take the time to explain why we do it, how we do it and the small risks involved,” Dr. Grove said. “We also ensure the procedure is done safely and the patient is comfortable. Anesthesia sedates the patient prior to the start of the exam.”
Depending on the patient’s circumstances, a colonoscopy can take from 20 minutes to an hour. In some situations, it may take a little longer. Unfortunately, there are few symptoms of colorectal cancer, Dr. Grove noted.
“Everyone should be screened at age 50,” he said. “However, if there is a family history, the risk increases and the patient must be more vigilant. Those with a family history of polyps may need to be screened as early as age 20. If you have polyps, the type will determine when you require repeated evaluations.”
There were 134,784 new colon and rectal cancers diagnosed in 2012 alone. This caused 51,516 deaths.
“That makes it the third most common cancer diagnosis for men and women,” Dr. Grove said. “It is also the third most deadly cancer in men and women.”