If you are 50 or older, have a history of colorectal cancer or polyps in your family or are experiencing symptoms such as a change in your bowel habits or unintended weight loss, you should be scheduling a colonoscopy today.
“A colonoscopy is considered the gold standard for testing for colorectal cancer,” says David Goran, MD, a gastroenterologist with GI Consultants, which is a part of BJC Medical Group and is located at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital. “Most importantly, it can save your life.”
According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in men and women in the United States.
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Dr. Goran, who does all of his procedures at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, shares several reasons for the importance of colonoscopy and why you should not be afraid of this important test.
It is recommended that patients with no family history be screened for colon cancer no later than age 50. A colonoscopy can test for both cancer and pre-cancerous polyps. Because of the increasing numbers of patients undergoing a screening colonoscopy, it is believed that the incidents of colon cancer have decreased.
The recommendations for patients who have a family history for colorectal cancer is to be screened by the lesser of age 50 or 10 years younger than the age of the family member when he or she was first diagnosed with cancer or polyps. For example, if a patient’s mother was diagnosed at age 47, the patient should have a screening colonoscopy at age 37.
If a patient experiences blood in their stool, they should not assume it is a hemorrhoid but rather share this information with their physician, Dr. Goran says. They should also discuss symptoms such as unintended weight loss or a change in their bowel habits. A physician may recommend a colonoscopy for any of these symptoms.
Although more people are having colonoscopies to screen for polyps and colon cancer, there are still those who shy away from the procedure. For many patients, the prep is the most difficult part of the procedure because it typically begins the day before the procedure and requires patients to eat a clear diet and take laxatives. And for those patients nervous about the actual procedure, Dr. Goran says there is no need to be embarrassed or concerned. Patients are sedated before any part of the procedure is undertaken, and they are fully covered for their privacy. The actual procedure takes about 30 minutes, and the patient is usually at the hospital for about two hours, from check-in to being discharged. Learn more about what to expect with a colonoscopy.
Very few people who have a colonoscopy are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, but there are a significant number who do have polyps, Dr. Goran explains. The removal of pre-cancerous polyps reduces the risk of patients developing cancer. He estimates that in his practice, pre-cancerous polyps are found in approximately 20 percent of women and 30 percent of men.
If a polyp is discovered, it will be removed and biopsy results will be available in a few days. If cancer is found, referral to a colorectal surgeon is readily available. Of course, if there is a colon cancer, the earlier it is detected the better the outcome.
Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital is a very accessible hospital with easy parking and an efficient check-in process at registration. The colonoscopy is done as an outpatient at the hospital, and although most patients do fine during the procedure, if there is a concern, being at the hospital is very important. A highly experienced nursing staff cares for patients throughout their stay. In addition, an anesthesiologist evaluates patients prior to their procedure, and a nurse anesthetist is on hand during the colonoscopy. If there are any concerns or complications, colorectal surgery, radiology and a lab are all available on site.
Dr. David Goran is accepting new patients. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Goran or another specialist, call 314.542.WEST (9378) or toll-free 844.542.9378 or request a call for an appointment.