Posts Tagged ‘colonoscopy’

Get the Facts About Colonoscopies

ColonoscopyColorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States, accounting for roughly 50,000 deaths each year. In 2018 alone more than 140,000 individuals were diagnosed, according to the American Cancer Society.

Fortunately, there’s a safe and effective way to identify precancerous cells and prevent colorectal cancer: the colonoscopy. Research continues to show the clear impact this screening has on saving lives. One recent study found that, among men and women with an average risk of colorectal cancer, colonoscopies reduced the risk of death from colon or rectal cancer by 67 percent.

Still, despite this evidence, many of us are hesitant to schedule our regular screening. Some of us think of the procedure as uncomfortable or embarrassing, or we may want to avoid the seemingly unpleasant prep to clear our intestines. But the more we know the more we’ll understand the push towards these important screenings. Discover the truth about colonoscopies, and why you should schedule a screening today.

Who Needs a Colonoscopy?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all adults begin colorectal screenings at age 50 and continue with screenings through age 75. Based on the findings of your results, you may not need to return for another colonoscopy for 5-10 years.

Colonoscopies are not the only screening option to detect colorectal cancer, but it is the most effective. Your primary care provider will discuss screening options, including which is the best for you.

What Should I Expect During a Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy allows your doctor to see the entire length of your rectum and colon to look for and remove abnormal growths or polyps. You’ll be asked to prepare for the procedure before it’s scheduled. This preparation includes:

  • Emptying the bowels by drinking a prescribed laxative and using enemas
  • Following a liquid-only diet for 24 hours before the procedure

Right before the procedure, you’ll receive sedation to help you relax and go to sleep. Then, your doctor will insert a colonoscope (a flexible, lighted tube with a small video camera on the end) slowly into your rectum and colon. If any polyps or growths are found, your doctor can remove them immediately.

What Are the Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?

A colonoscopy can identify colorectal cancer before symptoms appear, which improves treatment and outcomes. Common symptoms of colorectal cancer include:

  • Bloating or feeling full
  • Change in bowel habits, including
    • Diarrhea or constipation
    • Feeling as though bowel does not empty completely
    • Blood in stool
    • Stool that is narrower than usual
  • Feeling very tired all the time
  • Frequent gas pains or cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weight loss

It’s important to note that these symptoms may not necessarily be a result of colorectal cancer. Other health problems can produce similar symptoms, which is why it’s important to contact your physician if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms.

What Are the Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer?

The main risk factors for colorectal cancer are uncontrollable. They include heredity, family history and personal medical history. Other risk factors include:

  • Diabetes
  • Other controllable factors
    • Alcohol consumption
    • Obesity
    • Processed meat consumption
    • Red meat consumption
    • Smoking
  • Presence of an inflammatory bowel disease (i.e., Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, etc.)

Remember, early detection is your best chance for a cure. You should contact your physician if you’re experiencing symptoms or are at risk for colorectal cancer. If your physician feels it’s appropriate, a screening test such as a colonoscopy may be recommended to rule out the possibility of cancer.

Learn More

Talk to your primary care physician about your risk of colorectal cancer and to determine if you should schedule a colonoscopy. At Winship Cancer Institute, we’re committed to advancing the standard of care for all our patients, including those diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer. Learn more about our colorectal cancer treatment program or schedule an appointment with our gastrointestinal specialists by calling (404) 778-1900.

Talk to Our Nurses

Emory HealthConnection is where registered nurses can help you find a location or specialist that’s right for you. Call 404-778-7777 from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST (M-F).

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

Seeing over 17,000 patients a year, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is Georgia’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and serves as the coordinating center for cancer research, education and care throughout Emory University.


About Dr. McKenna

Matthew McKenna, MDMatthew T. McKenna, MD, is the director of Emory University’s Division of Preventive Medicine, and also serves as professor of Medicine in Emory’s Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. He has extensive experience in public health and preventive medicine. From 1989 – 2010, he worked for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and before joining the Emory faculty he was the medical director for the Fulton County (the county where the city of Atlanta is located) Department of Health and Wellness from 2010 to 2015.Dr. McKenna is a graduate of the Emory University School of Medicine and he completed his residency in Family Medicine and a post-doctoral fellowship in epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. McKenna joined CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service Program in 1989 and completed the CDC residency in General Preventive Medicine and Public Health in 1992. He subsequently assumed positions of increasing responsibility throughout his career working in a wide range of areas, such as cancer control, tuberculosis, HIV and his last position at CDC was as the director of the Office on Smoking and Health. He is board certified in Family Medicine and Preventive Medicine. Dr. McKenna serves as a volunteer, expert consultant to the Guideline Development Group of the American Cancer Society. That group provided input to the creation of the Colorectal Cancer Screening guidelines that were issued by the Society in May of 2018.

“Top Secret” Cancer Facts Worth Sharing

cancer secretsIt’s time to stop being embarrassed about the 3rd most commonly diagnosed cancer and the 3rd leading cause of cancer death for both men and women. More than 140,000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year and nearly 50,000 will lose their battle to the disease according to The American Cancer Society.

It’s colon cancer awareness month – share the facts about how a colorectal cancer screening could save your life.

A study, published in JAMA Surgery and recently reported in the NYT, showed that incidences of colorectal cancer have been decreasing by about 1 percent a year since the mid 1980s. Simply said, more people under the recommended screening age of 50 are being diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

Colon cancer is not embarrassing. There’s simply no sense in keeping secrets from your physician. If you have a history of colorectal cancer in your family or have particular symptoms that you’re unsure about then it’s time to get the facts from your doctor. Speak openly about your risk factors, prevention, early detection, and treatment.
Prevention and early detection of colorectal cancer are possible by appropriately scheduling a colorectal cancer screening. A conversation with your doctor is always confidential; make it honest and candid.

As a Nurse Practitioner in gastrointestinal cancers, I have had many patients who have stated that they wish they had gotten a colonoscopy as recommended for colorectal cancer screening. They also say they now preach to everyone they know to get their colonoscopies.

Find a primary physician through our Emory Healthcare Network or call Health Connection at 404-778-7777 to learn more from a registered nurse. No topic is top secret or off limits.

About Ms. Brutcher
Edith Brutcher

A chemotherapy infusion specialist and adult nurse practitioner, Ms. Brutcher’s clinical specialties include gastrointestinal and aerodigestive cancers. She has 27 years experience as a Registered Nurse, and 8 years as an Adult Nurse Practitioner with Medical Oncology. She obtained her Master of Science in Nursing Adult Practitioner, specializing in oncology and immunology, at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Related Resources

Colon Cancer Chat Transcript
An Intro to Colorectal Cancer Part I: Risk Factors, Symptoms & Diagnosis
An Intro to Colorectal Cancer Part II: Prevention, Diagnosis & Treatment
Winship Cancer Institute – Colon Cancer Resources

All About Colon Cancer

Thank you to everyone who participated in the colon cancer live chat with me on March12. We had some excellent questions on the topics of colon cancer prevention, risk factors, treatment options and new research on the horizon.  As mentioned in the chat, early detection is key to beating colon cancer, so it is important that all people over the age of 50 receive regular screenings. If there is family history of the disease, screening should start at an earlier age.  In many cases, cancer can actually be prevented by screening;  non-cancerous polyps detected during screening can be removed during the procedure.  Also, screening detects early-stage cancer and can prevent its spread. When cancer confined to the colon or rectum (local stage) is discovered, the odds of long- term survival are high.

March is national colorectal cancer awareness month.  Take control of your destiny, and schedule your regular screening today!  It could save your life.

For more information on all the topics we discussed in the chat, please review the chat transcript.

Contact us for more information about our colorectal cancer treatment programs: 404-778-1900 or request an appointment online.

About Bassel El-Rayes

Dr. El-Rayes, Colon Cancer SpecialistDr. El- Rayes is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine, the Director of the GI Oncology Translational Research Program and the Associate Cancer Center Director for Clinical Research at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

Dr. El-Rayes completed medical school at the American University of Beirut (AUB). He subsequently joined the internal medicine residency program at Wayne State University. After completing the residency, he joined the hematology oncology fellowship program at the Karmanos Cancer Institute, Wayne State University. He then joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor in the area of GI oncology. During this time, he was involved in translational research focused on pancreatic cancer. Dr. El-Rayes joined Emory University in September 2009 as the director of the GI Oncology program. He is designated as a Distinguished Cancer Scholar by the Georgia Cancer Coalition.

Related links

An Intro to Colorectal Cancer Part II: Prevention, Diagnosis & Treatment

Colon Cancer Chat Sign UpMarch is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. A few weeks ago, we gave you an intro to Colorectal Cancer, including statistics, information on the risk factors and symptoms of colorectal cancer, and information on the most popularly recommended diagnostic test, the colonoscopy. This week, we’re following up with information on preventing and treating cancer of the colon or rectum (also known as colorectal cancer), and providing more information on other methods for diagnosing.

Colorectal Cancer Prevention

Receiving regular screenings is going to be the best way to prevent colorectal cancer. Catching cancer early while it is still curable and/or removing polyps before they turn cancerous are keys to survival. According to the American Cancer Society, “people who have no identified risk factors (other than age) should begin regular screening at age 50.” If you have a strong family history of colon polyps or cancer, getting screened prior to age 50 is highly recommended. Other advice you’ll see for cancer prevention is similar across cancers. A few things you can do to help improve your health and fight off cancer, including colorectal cancer, include: quitting smoking, exercising regularly, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Diagnosing Colorectal Cancer

While a colonoscopy is the most common method of diagnosing and staging colorectal cancer and/or other gastrointestinal disorders, there are several other procedures used including:

  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: This test uses a flexible, lighted tube with a small video camera on the end. It can travel the full length of the rectum and half of the colon.
  • Colonoscopy: This test allows the doctor to look at the entire length of the colon and rectum with a colonoscope, which is a longer version of a sigmoidoscope.
  • Double Contrast Barium Enema: A type of x-ray test using barium sulfate, which is a chalky liquid, and air to outline the inner part of the colon and rectum, highlighting abnormal areas on x-rays.
  • CT Colonography (Virtual Colonoscopy): This is an advanced type of computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan of the colon and rectum. It is non-invasive, can be done fairly quickly, and does not require sedation.

For more information on each of these procedures, please visit the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

Treating Colorectal Cancer

After cancer is diagnosed and staged, your multidisciplinary colorectal cancer care team will create a treatment plan using one, or a combination, of these main treatment methods:

  1. Surgery – Surgery is the main treatment method for colorectal cancer. This procedure involves removing the cancer, a section of normal tissue on either side of the cancer, and any local lymph nodes.
  2. Radiation Therapy – A type of cancer treatment that uses ionizing radiation energy to kill cancer cells and shrink cancerous tumors. Colorectal cancer may be treated using external beam radiation before surgery to shrink the tumor or after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells.
  3. Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is medication delivered to the body to eliminate cancer cells or greatly reduce their effect. It targets cells that divide rapidly, a characteristic of most cancer cells. Chemotherapy is often used to support and enhance other cancer treatment modalities.

If you are interested in learning more about colorectal cancer, or have questions not covered in this blog,  make sure to sign up for Dr. Bassel El-Rayes and Dr. Roberd Bostick’s colon cancer chat  tomorrow, March 20th (UPDATE – CHAT TRANSCRIPT). It’s bound to be a great discussion!

Contact us for more information about our colorectal cancer treatment programs: 404-778-1900 or request an appointment online.

Related Resources: