Colon Cancer Prevention: The importance of colonoscopy
Each year more than 55,000 Americans die from colorectal cancer. This deadly disease is the second leading cause of cancer deaths. Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital gastroenterology nurse, Marilou Asuncion, urges people age 50 and older to schedule a colonoscopy to check for this common and highly preventable cancer. The screening also is recommended for anyone with a history of colorectal cancer in their family.
“We find that some patients are scared to undergo a colonoscopy,” Asuncion said. “But a little discomfort is a small price to pay for the peace of mind that comes with taking care of yourself. Colonoscopy is the best prevention for colon cancer.”
A colonoscopy is an outpatient, endoscopic examination of the large colon and distal part of the small bowel. The procedure evaluates gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, intestinal bleeding, unexplained weight loss, or other changes in bowel habits. It also checks for cancer and abnormal growths called polyps.
“Colonoscopy is important because they detect inflammation, ulcers, tumors and other abnormal growths in the colon,” said Asuncion. “It can give doctors the opportunity to catch any problems early enough for treatment.”
In order to prepare for the procedure, patients must completely empty their bowel. Patients are required to follow a liquid diet for one to three days beforehand and take a laxative the night before the colonoscopy. Most medications may be taken as usual; however, aspirin products, blood thinners, arthritis medications and iron supplements may require special instructions.
“A liquid diet includes items such as plain tea or coffee, diet soda, water, strained juice, and broth” said Asuncion. “In order to get the clearest results, it’s extremely important that the bowel is completely clean during the procedure.”
Changes in bowel habits, blood in the stool, diarrhea, constipation, frequent bloating and cramps, unexplained weight loss and vomiting are all signs that a colonoscopy may be needed to determine the source of the problem.
“Early detection is extremely important in treating colon cancer,” Asuncion said. “The earlier the cancer is spotted, the better the survival rate will be.”