At Beverly Oaks Surgery, we value your health. That’s why we urge all our patients over the age of 50 to come see us for a colonoscopy.
Colonoscopies allow our doctors to visually examine the inside of the colon for closer inspection of irregularities. This is accomplished by inserting a tube with a camera on the end into the anus and through the colon.
The colon must be completely clean to achieve accurate results. Patients will usually be given a special cleansing solution to drink before the exam, or may be asked to consume only a clear liquid diet with laxatives or enemas. Most medications can still be taken, although some such as aspirin or blood thinners may require special instructions. Your doctor will instruct you on how to prepare.
What you can expect during a colonoscopy
Before the procedure, an IV is inserted with medication to make the patient relaxed and sleepy. The heart, blood pressure, and oxygenation of the blood are monitored throughout the procedure. During the colonoscopy, the patient lies on their left side or back as the colonoscope is slowly inserted. It reaches all the way to the tip of the colon and examines the lining of the area as it passes in and out. The procedure takes about 15-60 minutes. A biopsy may be taken during the procedure if an area needs to be examined further.
Abnormal results of a colonoscopy can be a result of:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Lower gastrointestinal bleeding
Colorectal Cancer Treatment
Colon cancer refers to cancer of the large intestine (colon) while rectal cancer refers to cancer of the last 6 inches of the colon (rectum). Cancers affecting either of these organs are collectively called colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer occurs when some of the cells that line the colon or the rectum become abnormal and grow uncontrollably. Most cases of colorectal cancer begin as small, benign clumps of cells called polyps. Over time some of these polyps may become cancerous.
Causes of Colorectal Cancer
Cancer occurs when healthy cells become altered. They grow and divide in a way to keep your body from functioning normally. In the colon and rectum, precancerous cells may form in the lining of the intestine, which may become cancerous over a long period of time. Precancerous growths usually occur as adenomatous polyps – clusters of abnormal cells in the glands covering the inner wall of the colon.
The exact cause of colorectal cancer is unknown, but there are several risk factors for the disease:
- Heredity. As with any cancer, colorectal cancer can be linked to genetics.
- Age. The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with age. The disease is more common in people over 50.
- Diet. Colon cancer and rectal cancer may be associated with a diet low in fiber and high in fat and calories.
- Other diseases. Colorectal cancer is strongly associated with other diseases. These include a history of colon polyps, inflammatory disease of the colon, diabetes, and cancers of the pancreas, breast, ovaries, or uterus.
- Life factors. The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases if you drink alcohol, smoke, do not get enough exercise, and/or are overweight.
Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer
Many people with colorectal cancer experience no symptoms in the early stages. Common warning signs may include:
- Changes in bowel movements, including constipation or diarrhea
- Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
- Abdominal discomfort or bloating
- Weakness or fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
Treatment for Colorectal Cancer
The type of treatment your doctor recommends will depend on the stage of your cancer. The three main treatment options for colorectal cancer are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, which may be used alone or in combination with each other.
In colorectal cancer surgery, the cancerous part of the colon or rectum is removed, along with some normal tissue on each side to ensure no cancer is left behind. Your surgeon will usually be able to reconnect the healthy portions of your colon or rectum. However, if this is not possible (for example, if the cancer is at the outlet of your rectum) ,you may need a permanent or temporary colostomy. This involves creating an opening in the wall of your abdomen for the elimination of body waste into a special bag.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. It can be used to destroy cancer cells after surgery, to control tumor growth, or to relieve the symptoms of colorectal cancer. Chemotherapy may be recommended if the cancer has spread beyond the wall of the colon or rectum.
Radiation therapy uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells that might remain after surgery, to shrink large tumors before an operation so they can be removed more easily, or to relieve symptoms of colorectal cancer. Radiation damages the genetic material of cells in the area being treated, preventing them from growing. Although radiation damages normal cells as well, the normal cells can usually repair themselves while the cancer cells cannot.
How to Prevent Colorectal Cancer
Diet and Exercise
An initial step towards the prevention of colorectal cancer may include exercise and proper dieting. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, which may play a role in cancer prevention. Limiting alcohol consumption and smoking may also help in colorectal cancer prevention.
Some medications have been found to reduce the risk of precancerous polyps or colorectal cancer. It has been proposed that aspirin may stop cancer cells from multiplying. Other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Aleve and Motrin, may reduce the size of polyps. However, this has not yet been well established, and the proper dosage needed to create this potentially risk-reducing effect is not yet known.
Most health problems respond best to treatment when they are diagnosed and treated as early as possible. Regular checkups can catch abnormalities or problems early. Screening for colorectal cancer can include a rectal exam, fecal occult blood test, a sigmoidoscopy, and a colonoscopy.
Nearly 50,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer each year, making it the 2nd leading cause of cancer-related death. But it needn’t be; colorectal cancer is over 90% curable when caught in its earliest stages. The American Cancer Society recommends that in order to prevent colorectal cancer, men and women over the age of 50 should receive a colonoscopy every 10 years.
Colonoscopies are generally covered under most insurance plans. Please call us today for a FREE PPO insurance verification. We will also discuss your medical history and help you determine when you should start your screenings.
To learn more about our Colonscopy procedure, please call us today to schedule a consultation.