More Could Benefit from Colonoscopy: April 13, 2012

Colonoscopies have proven time and time again to shed light on a very discreet cancer, but only 40% of people who need to get screened are taking advantage.

“There’s a perception there may be discomfort involved and that the preparation is difficult,” says Dr. Nick Sharma, a gastroenterologist on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.

Irini Bonou-Price was suffering from gastrointestinal problems but never dreamed it was cancer.

“The types of symptoms that I had most people think its hemorrhoids. If I had let it go though if I had not paid attention as I did I probably wouldn’t be here today talk to you.”

Still, almost 60,000 people die each year from colorectal cancer. Its the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. What few people realize is that its one of the few cancers that are preventable.

“Colon cancer arises out of colon polyps which are benign, when we screen we’re looking for colon polyps and if we can remove colon polyps we can hopefully prevent colon cancer,” says Dr. Sharma.

A typical colonoscopy requires a clear liquid diet the night before, along with a special cleanse. The procedure itself is performed under anesthesia.

“We introduce the scope into your colon and examine your colon and use the channels within the scope to remove any polyps or to obtain biopsies. It’s a painless procedure that takes about 20 to 40 minutes,” says Dr. Sharma.

People are encouraged to get a colonoscopy at age 50, earlier if they have a family history. Irini considers it time well spent.

“They put you to sleep and you wake and it’s done.”