By DR. KIRI BRANDY
Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. with 150,000 new cancers discovered annually and 56,000 new deaths from colon cancer yearly.
The number of new cancers and deaths from this disease can be significantly reduced through preventative measures and early detection.
By removing precancerous colon polyps, the actual cancer can be prevented from developing, Early detection greatly improves the cure rate, reducing the mortality from the spread of cancer.
It has been proven that screening colonoscopy greatly reduces the occurrences and severity of colon cancer. According to current recommendations, both men and women at the age of 50 should have an initial screening colonoscopy even in the absence of any symptoms. Anyone at risk should consider earlier testing.
At risk people include anyone with rectal bleeding from any source. Bleeding from hemorrhoids may be an early sign of a growth in the colon or even cancer. Worsening constipation or diarrhea should be investigated with colonoscopy and a family history of colon cancer or even benign polyps warrants colonoscopy before the age of 50. Unexplained lower abdominal pain may lead to a colonoscopy as part of the testing for its cause.
At Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center, two recent advances in colonoscopy testing has greatly improved the acceptance of this procedure. Most patients are examined while sedated and have no recollection of the test. The anesthetic medicine is now administered continuously throughout the procedure by a nurse anesthetist while the patient’s vital signs are monitored. The medicine takes effect immediately and its effects reverse immediately when the drug is stopped. Compared to former regimens, there is very little nausea or lethargy immediately at the end of the test. Patients are able to leave the hospital sooner with very little, if any, side effects. Dr. Kiri Brandy, who recently joined the colonoscopy staff at Claxton Hepburn Medical Center, notes her patients tolerate this procedure well. “This medication is much better accepted by my patients. They are able to go home sooner with very little side effects.”
The second improvement is colonoscopy screening is the bowel cleansing the day before the test. Older regiments involved drinking poor tasting salty solution, usually beginning at noon the day before the test. This would interfere with work and other daily routines. Now the cleansing procedure is improved, usually consisting of consuming one to two liters of flavored Gatorade with a laxative added to the drink. This may be started in the evening and usually finished in time for a night’s sleep before the test. A full regular diet is resumed immediately after the test. Again Dr. Brandy notes, “This improved bowel preparation combined with the new anesthetic medicine has made this very valuable test much more acceptable to my patients.” She hopes that more testing will reduce the numbers of new cancers found and death rates from cancers found late.
This article was provided by Dr. Kiri Brandy, who is accepting new patients along with her partner, Dr. Chris Brandy, M.D., in Ogdensburg, at her recently opened office in Canton.