FEATURE – From birth through retirement, your gastrointestinal health is critical for nutrition and comfort. Everyone has had some discomfort or even pain when things are not moving through your system efficiently. Cancer screening and diagnosing digestive diseases early allow us to have a better chance of treating and curing patients.
The most common screening and diagnostic tool for the lower GI system is a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a procedure that uses a long flexible, narrow tube with a light and tiny camera on one end, called a colonoscope, to look inside the rectum and entire colon. A colonoscopy can show irritated and swollen tissue, ulcers or polyps (extra pieces of tissue that grow on the lining of the intestine).
Most of my patients tell me that the colonoscopy procedure itself is not remembered due to anesthesia and they wished they’d done it sooner. It’s a good feeling to know you’re polyp-free. The most uncomfortable part, some say, is the prep the day before the procedure. I just tell my patients, “What’s gone in has to come out.” That way they usually choose to have a lighter diet and are drinking plenty of liquids prior to starting the prep. Also, a high-quality probiotic will get your gut bacteria numbers up before and after the procedure, and most patients can resume their normal diet without any side effects.
Among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Every year, about 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer and more than 50,000 die from it.
Colorectal cancer screening saves lives. If everyone age 50 and older was screened regularly, as many as 60 percent of deaths from this cancer could be avoided.
The risk of getting colorectal cancer increases with age. More than 90 percent of cases occur in people over 50. Colorectal cancer screening saves lives, but many people are not being screened according to national guidelines.
Colorectal cancer screening tests can find precancerous polyps, so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. In this way, colorectal cancer is prevented. Also, screening tests can find colorectal cancer early, when treatment can lead to a cure.
Precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially at first. You could have either and not know it. That is why having a screening test is so important.
What are you waiting for?
Written by Dr. Brian Zehnder for St. George Health & Wellness magazine and St. George News.
Zehnder practices in St. George, West Valley City and Magna. He is the medical director of the Exodus Healthcare Network, caring for gastroenterology patients and family practice.
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