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Case for Colonoscopy: August 16, 2011

Dr. Janette Gaw is always willing to talk colonoscopy, even when others aren’t.

“Somehow breast cancer people talk about, they’re open about, but there’s something about the colon or the rectum or the cancer, people are kind of almost somewhat ashamed of it or they don’t want to have that invasive procedure.”

She believes more people would turn their attention to colonoscopy if they understood its value.

“People get mammograms, PSAs, those are the more well known things you know for breast cancer, prostate cancer - but the truth is those detect early cancers. The good news about colonoscopies is that it can actually prevent cancers because technically polyps are the things that grow up to become cancers.”

In a colonoscopy your doctor will insert a thin tube with a small camera in through the rectum. The device allows them to examine the colon’s inner lining; it can collect tissue and remove polyps.

“So if you have a colonoscopy, you take out the polyps, technically you should not develop colon cancer,” says Dr. Gaw, a colorectal surgeon on the Lee Memorial Health System medical staff.

If the colonoscopy finds an early cancer has already developed, it’s still very treatable. Stage one cancer has close to a 90% cure rate.

The difficult part when it comes to colorectal canner is there are few outward symptoms, and by the time someone feels sick, it might be too late. The bottom line: colonoscopies save lives.

“I don’t think I’ve every had anybody tell me I wish I never had a colonoscopy you know most the time they wake up oh my god, we’re done?! That was easy,” says Dr. Gaw.