By DR. JULIUS CO SORIANO
Colon cancer is the cancer of the large intestine which is the final part of our digestive tract. It is also the number one gastrointestinal cancer in the Philippines as stated by the Philippine Society of Gastroenterology with an estimate of over 3,000 new cases detected each year.
This same disease is also what caused the death of a few personalities. Former Philippine President Corazon Aquino, United States President Ronald Reagan, and Pope John Paul II were just a few of those who were not able to escape this disease.
Colon cancer is a serious disease; however, it is preventable. March is the colon cancer prevention month and it is important for us to be reminded of a few things about colon cancer. We should always be aware of the ways to detect the early signs of colon cancer as well as its preventive measures. The best way to identify early colon cancer is through colonoscopy. In line with this, here are 10 things one needs to know about colonoscopy:
1 What is Colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy is a test performed by a doctor with the objective of looking into the lining of the large intestine for any abnormalities. In this procedure, a colonoscope, a long soft flexible tube containing a tiny video camera and a light, is used. It is gently inserted through the anus and it sends pictures of the lining of your colon which the doctor carefully examines.
2 How can colon cancer be prevented by colonoscopy?
Colon cancer starts with a small polyp. Looking for these polyps and removing them early by colonoscopy is the only way to prevent it to grow and become malignant. It cannot be overemphasized that colon cancer is a highly preventable, and that survival rates are high when tumors are detected and removed at its early stage. So it is very important to be able to spot these polyps as early as possible through screening colonoscopy.
3 Who needs to undergo colonoscopy?
It is recommended that all individuals who have reached the age of 50 years should have a colon cancer screening. Moreover, if some of these factors or symptoms are present, it is encouraged for the individual to undergo a colonoscopy even earlier:
• A close relative with colon cancer
• Noticeable changes in one’s stool pattern
• Presence of blood in one’s feces
• Sudden unintentional weight loss
• Anemia and loss of appetite
4 Who will do the exam?
Colonoscopy is done by a gastroenterologist. A gastroenterologist is a specialist in gastrointestinal diseases and has received special training in colonoscopy. Gastroenterologists perform more colonoscopies by far than any other specialty.
5 Is it painful?
Colonoscopy predominantly is a pain-free procedure, but one might feel pressure, bloating or cramping during the procedure. Before the doctor begins the colonoscopy, he/ she gives the patient sedatives to put them to sleep while the procedure is being done. During the procedure, air is pumped into the colon to keep it open so that your doctor can get the best pictures.
6 How long does colonoscopy take?
The procedure takes about 30 minutes to one hour, although one should allot two to three hours for the waiting time, preparation, and recovery. It is highly recommended for the patient to stay in the hospital until most of the effects of the sedatives have worn off.
7 Is the preparation difficult?
The preparation is by no means difficult. Most of the time, the patient is asked to have restricted diets to liquids only or low residue diets one day before the procedure. Furthermore, one also needs to take in lots of fluids and laxatives that the doctor will prescribe until one’s feces have become a clear watery stool.
8 How about after the procedure?
The patient will stay in the recovery room until most of the effects of the sedative wear off. One might pass out a lot of air. It is also highly discouraged for the individual to drive, operate machinery or make any critical decisions for the rest of the day because of the medications given. The patients must ask a friend or family member to take them home.
9 Is it expensive?
The cost of colonoscopy varies depending on what hospital the procedure will be done. Most HMO and Philhealth will usually cover most if not all expenses.
10 Where can I get one?
An individual needs to be evaluated first before the colonoscopy. Therefore, consultation with a certified gastroenterologist is needed. Please visit the Philippine Digestive Endoscopy website (psde. org.ph) and look for an expert endoscopist near your area.
March 2018 Health and Lifestyle