Getting to the bottom of it

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 12, 2009

By David Vitrano


LAPLACE – Colonoscopies got their 15 minutes of fame a few years back when television news personality Katie Couric agreed to let hers be taped and broadcast on NBC’s “Today Show.” And while that stunt did raise the profile of the procedure somewhat, the number of people getting the screening is not nearly as high as it should be.

According to River Parishes Hospital Gastroenterologist Mark Moglowsky, he performs an average of 10 to 15 colonoscopies a week but said that number should be closer to 50.

“The funny thing is, people are afraid of this exam,” he said, adding, “They have much more anxiety than is warranted.”

Despite the uneasy feelings many people harbor regarding colonoscopies, Moglowsky described the procedure as simple and quick.

He said the hardest part is the day-before preparation, which involves fasting and taking heavy laxatives to cleanse the bowels. For the actual procedure, in which a lighted tube is inserted into the rectum, the patient is sedated and often does not realize the procedure has even taken place. According to Moglowsky, one the most frequent questions he is asked following the exam is, “When are we going to start?”

The procedure itself lasts only about 20 minutes, and one of the biggest advantages to the screening is any polyps detected can be removed right there on the spot. Other than tests to determine whether any tissue removed is actually cancerous, results are immediate.

Moglowsky did caution, however, patients need to have someone pick them up after the procedure as the sedatives impair the ability to drive. Patients may also need to take the rest of the day off from work if the procedure is performed in the morning.

Another advantage of the colonoscopy, said Moglowsky, is the test can not only detect cancer but also prevent it. He said the cure rate for people who display no symptoms of colon cancer is 90 percent.

“We cured one last week,” he said.

The biggest problem, he said, is “colon cancer early on doesn’t cause any symptoms.” For this reason, he said the only two questions one should ask when considering a colonoscopy are: “Am I 50 years of age or older?”; and “Have I ever had a colonoscopy?”

Colonoscopies should be performed every 10 years on patients over 50, said Moglowsky, provided they have had no polyps removed previously. The test needs to be done every five years on those who have had polyps removed.

Since arriving at River Parishes Hospital this summer, Moglowsky has done his best to spread the word about the procedure, distributing informative cards through the mail and speaking to groups upon request.

One person he managed to convince was River Parishes Hospital CEO Charlotte Dupré, who had the procedure done last week.

Dupré said after Moglowsky’s arrival, she decided, “OK, it’s time.” She added, “It’s kind of like a little wake-up call.”

Following the procedure, Dupré said, “I was worried. I had a little concern, but there was nothing to worry about.”

The act of her having the test done has already changed the mind of at least three other people.

“ The person who brought me here this morning was afraid to have it, but she said she was going to have it now,” Dupré said. Additionally, two managers at the hospital have agreed to have the screening done since Dupré’s procedure.

Another member of the community in whose life Moglowsky has made a tremendous impact is Gramercy resident Mary McGee.

“I call him my guardian angel,” said McGee, who was referred to Moglowsky after her usual physician could not determine the cause of her ailments.

McGee was having abdominal pain and trouble eating and keeping food down. Her doctor’s initial assessment was acid reflux, but when heartburn-like symptoms subsided, he knew he was probably wrong and sent her to a specialist.

Through a colonoscopy, Moglowsky discovered polyps, which he removed.

“He’s a wonderful doctor,” said Mcgee. “I really owe my life to him.”

To other members of the community, McGee has one message, “Go see the doctor.”

To make an appointment with Moglowsky, contact his office at 985-653-1605.

To find out more about colon cancer and colonscopies, visit the Web sites for the Center for Disease Control at and the American Cancer Society at