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Have you had your lifesaving screening colonoscopy? Get the facts on Medical Rounds

March 09, 2016

Dr. Kelly Tyler, chief of the Division of Colorectal Surgery appeared on last night's Medical Rounds - a collaboration between Baystate Health and Western Mass News. The weekly Medical Rounds is broadcast in the 5:30 p.m. portion of the Tuesday night news and focuses on family health and wellness and breakthrough technology. Each session is followed by an interactive live chat. Last night's session focused on colorectal cancer and the importance of screening colonoscopy. A transcript of last night's edition follows.

Q: There has been a lot in the media over the years about colorectal cancer, much of it driven by newscaster Katie Couric and other celebrities after her husband died from the disease. Has this helped to get the word out?

A: Finding cases of colorectal cancer early through screening colonoscopies can dramatically improve your chances of successful treatment by 80 percent. That’s a pretty significant number. Yet, about half of those eligible for screening, which for most people begins at age 50, still have not had a colonoscopy.

Q: Why aren’t more people getting screened?

A: It’s no secret that many people fear and avoid having a lifesaving colonoscopy, which is a safe and relatively painless procedure. Yes, there might be some discomfort involved, but patients are given medication to relax and often fall asleep. I think what most people find to be troublesome is the bowel preparation the night before, when patients must drink a gallon of colon cleansing solution. However, a new split-dosing method was introduced in 2014 which now lets patients drink half of the prep solution the night before, then complete the second dose within 2-3 hours from their procedure the next day, making it more tolerable for some.

Q: What are the risk factors for colorectal cancer?

A: There are many risk factors beginning with your age, and that is for people 50 or older. Other risk factors include a family history of colorectal cancer or colon polyps, a personal history of intestinal polyps or inflammatory bowel disease, a diet high in red and processed meats, obesity, smoking, type 2 diabetes, heavy alcohol use and physical inactivity.

Q: People often have a fear of the unknown and a fear of having to endure invasive procedures and treatments for colon cancer. Is that still the case today?

A: Because of major advances in technology, we offer patients surgery for colon and rectal cancer with minimally invasive techniques. This allows us to make smaller incisions and results in improved recovery for our patients. Even patients who may require more extensive surgery are experiencing improved outcomes and survival from colon cancer with adequate medical and surgical treatment. Our surgeons at Baystate recognize the importance of sphincter-sparing treatments that allow most colorectal cancer patients to heal after surgery with the ability to pass bowel movements naturally without the need of an ostomy bag attached to their side.

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