Sunday, February 23rd, 2020

Physician emphasizes colonoscopy screening

Posted: Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Nearly 150,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with colon cancer. According to the national Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA), it is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S.

During National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month this March, the nation calls attention to the disease, as does Parkview Huntington Hospital by emphasizing the importance of a colonoscopy screening.

In addition, it is important to remember, reminds Kelly Klinker, MD, Parkview Physicians Group - Colon and Rectal Surgery, that every seven to 10 years, beginning at age 50, a colonoscopy screening greatly reduces the risk of colon cancer.

Colon cancer is up to 90 percent preventable, says Dr. Klinker. “The sooner the cancer is detected, the more effective the treatment. Symptoms don’t generally appear until its later stages, which underscores the need for regular screenings. Colon cancer symptoms include a change in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, constant abdominal discomfort and fatigue.”

“The purpose of a colonoscopy is to locate polyps, the precursors to cancer, which we remove during the colonoscopy so they won’t potentially become cancer,” adds Dr. Klinker. “And, although a first colonoscopy is recommended at age 50, family history may determine that it be done sooner.”

Dr. Klinker also recommends that African-Americans begin screening at the age of 45 because they tend to be diagnosed at a later stage of cancer. “If we screen this population at an earlier age, we can find and remove precancerous polyps or detect colon cancers at an earlier stage,” she says.

“Also, in terms of how often one should get a colonoscopy, that, too, is based on family history and what we find at the time of the colonoscopy,” she said. “For the average person it is every 10 years.”

Although many people dread the bowel preparation that is critical for a thorough colonoscopy, she adds, any stool remainings coating the colon wall will make it difficult for the physician to see all of the polyps because some of them are very small. “It’s crucial for the bowel to be very clean to allow the physician to visualize the colon wall and to thoroughly conduct the screening,” Dr. Klinker says.

“I do hear oftentimes from people that they are fearful of bowel preparation,” she adds, “but in general they are well-tolerated. Of all the cancers out there, I think we have the biggest impact because we can prevent colon cancer by removing the polyps. If one is fearful, it is worth discussing your concerns with the physician, because there are things we can do to make the bowel preparation a better experience."

Before getting a colonoscopy, there are certain drugs that should be discontinued some time before the procedure. “I advise that over-the-counter herbs, ibuprofen (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and aspirin be discontinued three to seven days before the colonoscopy,” she says, “and there are other drugs, such as anti-platelet drugs and anti-coagulants that should be discontinued, because they could increase the chance of bleeding during the procedure.”

Dr. Klinker emphasizes that when choosing a physician to do a colonoscopy, it’s important to find someone who performs them routinely. Not all polyps are equal, with some more difficult to remove than others, she says. If a patient sees a physician who is very comfortable with colonoscopy, then the more difficult polyps may successfully be removed at the initial colonoscopy without the need for surgery.