St. Mary’s Hospital has performed over 2,000 colonoscopies since they began providing the service in 1989. They currently average about 20 to 30 procedures per month. Colonoscopies are often used to screen for colorectal cancer.
Most colon cancers arise from precancerous polyps within the colon. People with colorectal polyps or growths on the inner wall of the colon or rectum are at greater risk for colorectal cancer. If these polyps are found early and removed, colon cancer can be prevented. According to the National Cancer Institute, colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in both women and men.
Dr. Andrew Jones, Dr. Ron Sigler and Dr. Jeremy Ostrander perform the outpatient procedure in the Minor Procedure Room at SMHC. Dr. Andrew Gilbert will also provide the service when he begins his practice in September.
“The technology has become more available and the use of anesthesia has made the procedure more patient-friendly,” said Dr. Sigler. “The scope uses fiberoptics which projects an image on a video screen. This allows us to locate any polyps or troublesome areas.”
According to the National Cancer Institute, screening for cancer before a person has symptoms can help the doctor find polyps or cancer in its early stages. NCI recommends that people in their 50s and older should be screened. They also say that people who are at higher-than-average risk should talk with their doctor about whether to have screening tests before age 50, what tests to have, the benefits and risks of each test, and how often to schedule appointments. Their website is www.cancer.gov
Risk factors include family history, lower GI conditions, diets that are high in fat and low in fiber, cigarette use and age. More than 90 percent of people with this disease are diagnosed after age 50. Although most polyps are benign or noncancerous some can be classified as precancerous or in the early stages. Most can be removed during the colonoscopy procedure which greatly reduces the risk of cancer.
“The chances of finding precancerous polyps and of getting colorectal cancer can be greatly reduced by this procedure, we’re hoping everyone is fully aware of its availability. Each person should talk to their doctor about their family medical history and lifestyle and decide which strategy is best for them,” said Dr. Sigler. “Upper endoscopy scopes which look at the esophagus and stomach are also available at St. Mary’s. Having these types of services available locally saves our patients a long drive to larger cities.”
More information on colorectal cancer and colonoscopies is available on www.Medlineplus.gov or by requesting information from the National Cancer Institute, 1-800-4CANCER.