Peterson: Get preventative screenings for Colon Cancer

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S., affecting both men and women.

Every year, more than 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people die from it.

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and it’s right around the corner.

This makes it the perfect time to put a spotlight on the benefits of the preventative colorectal cancer screening—the colonoscopy.

What is a Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a safe, effective procedure that visually examines the lining of the colon and rectum using a long, flexible, tubular instrument attached to a camera and video monitor.

It is used to diagnose colon and rectal problems, perform biopsies and remove colorectal polyps. The procedure usually takes less than an hour.

Patients are typically sedated for this procedure, so you will be asleep and comfortable during the colonoscopy.

Who should have a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy might be recommended if you have a change in bowel habits or bleeding. Those at average risk of colorectal cancer should receive their first screening at 45, but if you have family history or concerning symptoms, your doctor may recommend a screening before age 45.

Colonoscopies should be repeated every 10 years if you’re at average risk for colon cancer, or every five years if you have a history of polyps or a family history of colon cancer.

How do I prepare for a colonoscopy?

Prepping for a colonoscopy is said to be more of a challenge than the actual test. Prepping requires that the colon is completely cleaned out of stool. A clean colon gives the doctor conducting the colonoscopy a clear view of the intestinal wall.

Before your exam, your doctor will give you the steps for cleansing your bowel that typically includes a clear liquid diet the day before and taking laxatives or liquid prep the night before to help clear the colon. You may also be asked to stop taking medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen or other blood-thinning medicines.

What are the benefits of a colonoscopy?

With a colonoscopy, it’s possible to detect and remove most polyps without abdominal surgery.

We know that colon polyps, if not removed, can turn into cancer.

The benefit of a colonoscopy as a screening tool is that we can remove these polyps, that typically will not be causing any symptoms, before they progress to colon cancer.

Many other disorders of the colon may also be identified, including diverticular and inflammatory bowel disease.

Is it time for your colonoscopy?

An Ochsner gastroenterologist or gastroenterology nurse practitioner can discuss your history and risk factors and order the necessary tests. Schedule an appointment today!

Wendy Peterson, NP, of Ochsner Health Center- River Parishes is board-certified as an ANCC Family Nurse Practitioner and specializes in gastroenterology. To schedule an appointment with her, call 985-652-7000.