This is just perfect...and something I can't stop emphasizing. Don't let your fear in the colonoscopy discourage you from being tested and saving your life. Don't be sacred; let me help you. I even have a gift for you once you're done! :) -- Dr. Dale
Written by Minding Your Meds Randy L. Kuiper
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in the United States. Approximately 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer every year, with more than 50,000 people dying from it. Up to 60 percent of these deaths could be prevented with proper screening.
The risk of getting colorectal cancer increases with age, with more than 90 percent of cases occurring in people ages 50 or older. For this reason, routine initial screening is recommended for most people after they reach the age of 50. For the majority of people, a follow-up screening is recommended every 10 years until age 75.
These screening tests literally can save your life. Screening is essential because patients with early colorectal cancer often do not show any notable symptoms.
The screening procedure used most often is a colonoscopy. Colonoscopies can detect precancerous polyps that can be removed easily during the procedure before they turn into cancer. In addition, colonoscopy procedures done as recommended also can potentially detect colorectal cancer in an earlier stage before it spreads to other areas of the body. Effective treatment at an early stage often can be curative.
Unfortunately, too many people are still not getting colorectal cancer screening. Recent data indicates that almost one-third of adults aged 50 to 75 years have never been screened.
Lack of health insurance and not having a regular health care provider were major reasons most people cited for not getting screened. However, I believe many people use their unpleasant perceptions of undergoing the colon cleansing process as an excuse for not getting screened. This is unfortunate as both the preparation process and the actual colonoscopy procedure are actually tolerated very well by patients.
The accuracy of a colonoscopy relies heavily on the proper evacuation of the bowel of fecal material. The preparation usually begins the day before the procedure and involves a liquid diet along with taking various laxatives and bowel evacuation solutions until the bowel is fully cleansed. There are multiple types of regimens used to effectively clean out the bowel. Many involve drinking a large bottle of polyethylene glycol (PEG) with electrolytes (e.g. GoLytely, Nulytely, etc).
Colonoscopy providers will provide you with detailed instructions outlining exactly what you are to do and when you are to do it.
Many people have heard that some of the PEG products taste horrible, mainly related to a salty taste and rotten egg smell. There are measures that can dramatically reduce these complaints.
The actual colonoscopy procedure usually lasts about 30 minutes. Patients typically receive sedative and pain medications. Pain related to the procedure is usually minimal. Patients may experience a minor gas discomfort related to the air that is introduced into the colon as part of the procedure to allow for better visualization.
Although many patients say they were awake during the procedure, most will not be able to recall the actual events of the colonoscopy because of sedation.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Colorectal Cancer Control Program has set a goal of increasing the screening rate from 65 percent to 80 percent in 2014.
Make a serious effort to urge your family members and friends who are older than 50 and who have not been screened as recommended to get it done. You may just be saving their lives.
Randy L. Kuiper has been a registered pharmacist in Montana since 1981. He is the clinical coordinator for Benefis Hospitals Pharmacy. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.