Procedure can lead to early detection

Farm Forum

It’s really not a big deal, and it could save your life.

That’s what many patients could say about having a colonoscopy, a key screening that can detect potentially cancerous polyps in the colon. It’s understandable that people are reluctant to have this screening, but it is an essential tool in early detection of one of the five most common cancers in the Aberdeen region.

“Colorectal cancer is common, but it’s highly treatable when it’s detected early,” says Dr. Christopher Larson of Avera Surgical Associates and a general surgeon at Avera St. Luke’s Hospital. “We recommend people have a colonoscopy at age 50 and then every 10 years after that, or if there is a family history they may want to start at age 40. We advise they consult with their doctor about screening frequency.”

Colonoscopies are considered the “gold standard” for detecting colorectal cancer.

Screening saves lives by finding growths before they become cancerous. Colorectal cancer is 90 percent preventable and 90 percent treatable if detected early, yet it remains a leading cause of death by cancer.

“People may be scheduled for a colonoscopy if they present certain symptoms like bleeding, pain, or a change in bowel habits,” continues Dr. Larson. “However, you don’t have to wait for symptoms. Colon cancer can be developing without any obvious signs, that’s why we encourage standard age-appropriate screening.”

Before the test, people must follow special instructions, such as being on clear-liquid diets and taking laxatives. The procedure is done in an endoscopy lab as an outpatient. During a colonoscopy, the doctor inserts a thin, lighted, flexible tube equipped with a small video camera through the large intestine to view the lining. A colonoscopy takes only about half an hour, and moderate sedation is used so people are comfortable during the procedure. “We do our best to make it easy on the patient”, says Dr. Larson. “Our goal is finding and removing polyps before they become cancerous and stop colon cancer before it starts.”

Endoscopy is not only used for screening, but its technology has also been applied as a laparoscopic surgery. This type of procedure is a minimally invasive surgery, using rigid scopes inserted through small incisions or natural body openings in order to diagnose and treat disease. These tiny instruments can be used to take samples of suspicious tissues, remove organs and perform other medical procedures. Recovery time, pain and scar sizes are often reduced when laparoscopic surgery is used instead of traditional surgery. Surgical options can be discussed by the patient and doctor to decide if laparoscopic surgery is the right choice.

Laparoscopic Surgeries Performed at Avera St. Luke’s

• Appendectomy

• Colon resection

• Hernia repairs

• Gallbladder removal

• Laparoscopic supracervical hysterectomy

• Video-assisted thoracic surgery

• Nissen fundoplication (to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms)

• Splenectomy

• Adrenalectomy