“A colonoscopy is the one cancer screening tool that also cures the detected cancer, as any pre-cancerous polyps can be immediately removed,” explains Dr. Pranjal Shah, internist, Woodridge Clinic. He follows the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) guidelines by advising his patients to schedule their first screening colonoscopy at age 50, and once every ten years if there are no problems or family history of colorectal cancer.
Unfortunately, Shah says, many patients fear and avoid this routine out-patient procedure, dreading the advance bowel preparation of drinking multiple cups of a laxative solution the night before to cleanse the colon for clear viewing. He adds, “No matter how unpleasant the prep may be, it’s still much easier than coping with colon cancer, and possibly surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.”
He compares colonoscopies to other tests: “While a mammogram is a great screening tool for breast cancer, it doesn’t cure the cancer. A colonoscopy can.”
A colonoscopy, according to the ACS, is a 30-minute test performed after patients are given medicine to sleep. The doctor guides a flexible, lighted tube (about the diameter of a finger), which has a tiny video camera on the end, through the colon (also known as the large intestine, which is about four-feet long.) The camera sends pictures to a TV screen, allowing the doctor to see and remove any small polyps, which are growths that may develop into cancer if left untreated. Sometimes a larger tumor is found, and can be biopsied to check for cancer.
“Colorectal cancer screening helps people stay well and saves lives. Regular testing is one of the most powerful weapons for preventing colorectal cancer or finding it early when it’s easier to treat,” according to the ACS.
Shah states that while other colon screening tools are available, including checking stool samples for signs of cancer, “they can’t detect polyps. Colonoscopies are the ideal and most effective screening tool.”
For more information, call Woodridge Clinic, (630) 910-1177, or visit www.woodridgeclinic.com. Woodridge Clinic has offices in Woodridge, Lemont, and Lombard.