We know it’s not a favorite topic, but let’s talk about the importance of colonoscopies

August 3 – A lot of people tend to cringe when they hear the word colonoscopy, but it really is an important procedure.

Nikki Sommer, a nurse with Key West Surgical Group, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5 FM for Medical Matters this morning.

Colon cancer is the second highest cause of cancer death in both men and women and a colonoscopy is one of the best preventative tools to catch it early.

Sommer said it’s the first step in finding out “how your colon is doing. It used to be if you were 50 or older, you would get your first initial screening colonoscopy. Over the last recent years, the American Cancer Society has lowered that age to 45 because they have seen a spike in colon cancer cases among people under the age of 50.”

A high fiber diet is a good idea to keep the colon regular.

So, bran flakes for everyone!

Mike Stapleford of KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM asked, “Is prune juice one? My grandmother used to have prune juice all the time.”

“That’ll make you go,” Sommer confirmed with a laugh.

Regular screenings should continue through at least the age of 75, unless there are extenuating circumstances, which would be discussed with your doctor.

Screenings are looking for two types of polyps.

One is called an adenoma, which is considered the pre-cancerous polyp in the colon, although it’s benign. The second one is hyperplastic polyp, which is usually completely benign.

Sommer said, “If you have an initial colonoscopy and you have an adenoma, you most likely will repeat your colonoscopy in three years. It is benign when you have the diagnosis of an adenoma, but that is the one they watch that if left in and you do not get your normal routine screenings like you’re supposed to, could potentially turn into cancer.”

For those who have not had one, a colonoscopy is not painful.

A lot of people say it’s the preparation that can be tough. The day before, you have to be on clear liquids, you can’t eat any solid food and you can’t eat or drink anything after midnight until you have your procedure the next day.

Sommer said, “Everybody tells me it’s the best sleep they’ve ever had. You go to sleep, you wake up, you go home and you’re back to normal.”

Stapleford pointed out, “Your office is not far from McDonald’s. So once you’ve actually fasted, then you go directly to McDonald’s or something like it.”

“I mean, you really should eat something lighter,” Sommer suggested. “I will tell you people do that.”

Stapleford admitted, “I am not to be giving professional medical advice out. You are the people who do that.”

People at higher risk for colorectal cancer include those with a family history if the disease, or a personal history of Inflammatory Bowel Disease like Crohn’s Disease or colitis. Other syndromes in the family like Lynch Syndrome and FAP could also increase your risk.

Keep in mind, 75% of the people who are diagnosed with colon cancer have no family history. That alone should show the importance of the screening.

Sometimes the symptoms can be gradual and it’s easy to not pay attention.

Sommer said, “Sometimes people opt out not to have the colonoscopy. It’s a choice. It’s your body. There are a couple of tests you can do at home which is a lot easier.”

It’s a kit sent to your home and you send in a stool sample. They check for blood in your stool or DNA changes.

If the tests come back positive, a colonoscopy is then required.

Symptoms of issues in the colon include change in bowel habits, constipation or diarrhea where there’s no relief with any type of treatment.

Sommer said, “If you noticed your stool is changing consistency. It’s more pencil thin, it’s a red flag. Rectal bleeding is a big red flag. A lot of people do have what’s called hemorrhoids and through the years, they will have rectal bleeding, but if you notice it more, it’s more frequent, there’s sort of like a discharge, you need to seek medical attention and discuss that with your provider.”

Ongoing abdominal discomfort or pain that doesn’t seem to get relief, excessive gas, bloating, feeling of fullness, nausea and vomiting, weight loss, unexplained fatigue could all be signs of something going on.

Sommer said, “There is a correlation between iron deficiency and anemia and colon cancer. So a lot of times patients will just go for a regular physical, tell the doctor they’re fatigued. They check their iron levels, if it’s low we do get referrals for anemia to do a colonoscopy to make sure that it’s not colon cancer.”

While the list of symptoms could be related to something completely different, if you’ve never had a colonoscopy and you’re at the age when you should have had one and you have the symptoms, it’s a good idea to sign up for the screening.

Prior to the procedure, insurance will be discussed, as a lot of people aren’t aware of what’s covered and there is a difference between a screening and diagnostic colonoscopy in terms of coverage.

Sommer said, “A lot of times if you’ve never had a colonoscopy, but you’re having certain symptoms like bleeding or abdominal pain, a lot of insurance companies will not cover it as a screening. They now cover it as a diagnostic. The procedure is still the same. That doesn’t change. It’s the diagnosis, but thank you to the insurance companies, that’s going to determine how they’re going to pay for your procedure and what you’re going to be responsible for. I’m not an insurance expert, but working in an office, a lot of people don’t know what their insurance benefits are. There are a lot of times where procedures get canceled because patients have no idea what their benefits are and what the cost is going to be and they have to cancel their procedure.”

So early colonoscopies are a good idea all around.

During the procedure itself, a flexible tube with a camera on the end will provide a visual of the colon. Special tools will be used if certain polyps are discovered.

The day before the patient will be on a clear liquid diet. The prep begins at 4 p.m. with MiraLAX in 64 ounces of clear liquid over two hours, a few pills at 8 and things should be good to go.

Stapleford said, “Certainly it’s worth it if you’re going to save your life. That’s for sure.”

For more information, click here: https://www.keywestsurgicalgroup.com/