Special to CSMS Magazine
If someone told you that a 20-minute medical test literally could save your life, wouldn’t it be foolish to refuse it? Unfortunately, millions of Americans are doing just that when they fail to get periodic colon cancer screening.
Result: Each year, up to 57,000 Americans die unnecessarily from the disease.
Here’s what you must know to protect yourself against colon cancer….
Almost all malignancies of the large intestine and rectum start out as premalignant polyps, Flat or mushroom-shaped growths that are harmless but may become cancerous. If a polyp is detected and removed, cancer will not develop. That’s why screening—regular exams to detect polyps or cancer in its earlier stages—is crucial.
The most recent screening guidelines, published by the US Multisociety Task Force on Colorectal Cancer in February 2003, recommend screening for all men and women beginning at age 50. If you have already had surgery for polyps or colon cancer—or if you have inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative coltis or Crohns’s disease—your risks for colon cancer is increased and you should have colonoscopy on a schedule determined by your doctor.
- Colonoscopy every 10 years. This screening test is the most accurate and has been shown to prevent 85% to 90% of colon malignancies. Many health insurance plans now pay for screening colonoscopy, as does Medicare. Without health insurance, the procedure cost $3,000. Unfortunately, colonoscopy has a reputation for being embarrassing and painful. Both criticisms are overblown. Most patients say colonoscopy is not nearly as bad as they had expected.
What’s involved: While you sedated, a flexible, one-half-inch diameter tube that employs digital video optics is threaded through the anus and passed through the large intestine, enabling the doctor to see your entire colon lining on a video monitor. The procedure itself usually takes no more than 20 minutes.
Many people find the preparation, which involves laxatives to empty the bowel, much more unpleasant than the colonoscopy itself.
Until recently, the standard bowel preparation method involved drinking four liters of a bad-tasting colon-cleansing solution, such as Golytely, the night before. Newer products now make the process less unpleasant…
Phospho-soda also tastes bad, but you only take several tablespoon dissolved in liquid the night before and the morning of the procedure.
Helpful: While you can mix it with any clear liquid, most patients prefer to mix it in ginger ale to make it more palatable.
Visicol contains the same ingredient but in a tablet form. Instead of drowning a liquid solution, you swallow a total of 40 tablets in multiple doses.
Helpful: Whatever bowel prep method you use, consume at least three eight-ounce glasses of fluid the night before to prevent dehydration. You can drink any liquid, but a sports drink that contains electrolytes is preferred.
Source: The world’s greatest treasury of Health Secrets.
Note: Guerline Shertin lives and works in Bolder, Colorado. She wrote this piece for CSMS Magazine.