According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Many people who develop colorectal cancer have no symptoms during the early stages of the disease, which is why it is often discovered when it is too late. Fortunately, a simple screening colonoscopy can catch colorectal cancer easily and often stop it in its tracks.
The main advantage of colonoscopy is that we look for polyps, which can lead to cancer. “The vast majority of polyps don’t cause any symptoms, they just grow silently,” says Dr. Dale Rosenberg, a board certified internist, gastroenterologist and Medical Director at Regional Gi. “If someone is at average risk, the recommendation is that they start screening at age 50. If they have other colon cancer risk factors like a family history of polyps or colon cancer, they would start sooner, around age 40.” Due to evidence that AfricanAmericans develop colon cancer at a younger age, they should have their first screening around age 45. Once a patient has had a colonoscopy, they do not need to have another one for a decade, unless polyps are detected or they experience a change in bowel habits.
Colonoscopies are quick and painless; the procedure generally takes 20–30 minutes. Dr. Rosenberg assures patients that the only side effect they are likely to have when they get home is a bit of mild gas. “In Lancaster County, the vast majority of colonoscopies are administered with Propofol anesthesia and the patient is sleeping deeply and generally doesn’t feel anything.”
Dr. Rosenberg says less then 60 percent of people who should be screened in Lancaster County are screened regularly, but hopefully more people will be willing to schedule the procedure after learning how simple and essential it is. Medicare and most insurance companies will cover colonoscopies, which are offered at all area hospitals and two Regional Gi ambulatory surgery centers, one at the Lancaster General Health Campus, and the other at Regional Gi’s Brownstown endoscopy center.
Dr. Rosenberg and the other specialists at Regional Gi want to begin your New Year with this thought in mind, “20–30 minutes of screening could mean many more years of health and happiness.”
For more information regarding colon cancer screening, contact your primary care physician or call Regional Gi at (717) 869-4600.