Go With Your Gut…
… and book in for a Direct-Access Colonoscopy, says DR MELVIN LOOK, consultant surgeon in endoscopy and gastrointestinal surgery. Screening colonoscopies save lives, and now there’s no excuse not to get it done.
Colorectal cancer is one of the commonest cancers worldwide and is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in developed countries. Unfortunately, symptoms don’t appear until the disease is fairly advanced, so screening for colon cancer is absolutely essential.
The prognosis of colorectal cancer depends mainly on the stage of the disease at the time of diagnosis. Detected in time, early stage cancer is highly curable before it presents with the usual symptoms of blood in the stools, change in bowel habits, abdominal pain or intestinal obstruction.
That is why routine screening for colorectal cancer is so important. In fact, screening can also help prevent cancer by detecting and removing the problem at the precancerous stage.
Most colorectal cancers start off as little fleshy growths called polyps, which take a good five to 10 years to grow before they undergo cancerous changes. They start to form when we hit our forties, so a good recommendation is to do your first colon screening at the age of 45 to 50. If you have a strong family history of colorectal cancer (or even cancers with associated genetic risk such as stomach, breast or uterine cancers), you would even want to start screening 10 years earlier and at more frequent intervals.
By far the best way to screen for colon cancers is a simple endoscopic procedure called colonoscopy. This is a complete visual examination of the entire colon using a flexible telescope. It is a simple and safe 20-minute procedure done with intravenous sedation.
Many people procrastinate becaue of the perceived hassle of getting the procedure arranged. This can involve a visit to your family or company doctor for a referral to see a surgeon or gastroenterologist, the consultation with the specialist and booking the colonoscopy itself.
The Direct-Access Colonoscopy service does away with these hurdles, says Dr Look:
- Simply phone to arrange the colonoscopy on a date and at a location that suits youl no referral is required
- A nurse will screen your medical history and guide you through the process, including the required bowel cleansing.
- You’ll be assisted with the paperwork for your medical insurance provider.
- On the day of your colonoscopy, you’ll meet your surgeon and have ample time for discussion before the procedure.
- A full report will be given to you when you wake up after the colonoscopy, and your surgeon will explain the findings in details. No follow-up review is required unless there are specific problems found which require further care.