The National Cancer Institute estimated that nearly 143,000 new cases of colorectal cancer were diagnosed in 2010. Estimated deaths of colorectal cancer were 51,370. Colorectal cancer is treatable, beatable, and all together avoidable with a screening colonoscopy.
“It is recommended that healthy individuals have a colonoscopy beginning at age 50 and every 10 years thereafter,” Dr. Daniel Norman, Barton Health, Gastroenterologist said.
Colorectal cancer screenings are recommended by the American Cancer Society, the American College of Gastroenterologists, the American Gastroenterological Association and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. A Colonoscopy is the “gold standard” for colorectal cancer screening. A colonoscopy may find polyps and remove them, preventing the progression to colorectal cancer.
Individuals with a higher risk of colorectal cancer, such as those with a strong family history of colorectal cancer, should be tested at an earlier age. Additional risk factors include: Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, a change in bowel habits, anemia, unexplained weight loss or unexplained abdominal pain.
Dr. Norman recommends that “high risk” patients talk with their doctor about when is the appropriate time to be screened for colorectal cancer.
Performing approximately 30 colonoscopies a week at Barton Memorial Hospital, Dr. Norman says he has one to two cancellations a week due to the intolerance of the preparation (prep) for the colonoscopy.
“Some of the bowel preps that are used can be very harsh on a patient,” he said. “However, an adequate prep is essential to visualize the entire colon lining. Many patients cannot tolerate the entire prep or are not compliant with the instructions. An inadequate prep increases the likelihood of missing polyps or worse.”
As an alternative to some of the intolerable bowel preps for colonoscopies, Barton Health purchased a colon hydrotherapy system in March. Colon hydrotherapy is a method of cleansing the entire colon using warm, filtered water. The procedure is performed by a registered nurse. Hydrotherapy has shown to be more effective and better tolerated than the standard methods of bowel prep for colonoscopy.
“I tried to have a colonoscopy in 2007, but the simple preparation procedure turned into a nightmare,” said a South Lake Tahoe resident, who did not want to be identified. “The prep was awful, it made me sick to my stomach and I threw it up, so I was unable to go through with the procedure.”
Keeping their identity private, the Tahoe resident said their sibling recently had a colonoscopy and physicians found a pre-cancerous polyp and were able to remove it.
“I did not want to go back, but they [Barton] told me about this new type preparation. I am so glad I went through this prep. It was easy, not embarrassing and you’re in a controlled setting.”
Dr. Norman found a pre-cancerous polyp in the Tahoe resident.
“I could have had this polyp years ago and might not have been able to go through the other form of prep. I am glad the hospital is so forward thinking and now that it’s removed I have to go back every three years to get checked.”
“I just want to thank everyone at Barton for supporting this machine and being pro-active about their patient’s health.”
“The procedure is quite easy and painless for patients,” said Barton G.I. nurse Susan Frailey. “All of the patients who have experienced colon hydrotherapy have been very pleased with the procedure.”
Frailey has performed more than 2,000 colon hydrotherapy procedures throughout her career. She is an I-ACT Level III colon hydrotherapist and certified instructor from the Global Professional Association of Colon Therapy.
“The day before the colon hydrotherapy procedure and colonoscopy, the patient is able to have a light breakfast followed by clear liquids for the rest of the day,” she said. “They take a mild laxative before noon and most bowel movements are generally completed by early evening, so patients can have a good night sleep prior to the procedure.”
“The older and relatively debilitated population may benefit from colon hydrotherapy, as [with the other preps] they must hurry to go to the bathroom and could possibly fall or injure themselves,” Dr. Norman said.
There is no sedation required for colon hydrotherapy. Warm filtered water is instilled into the colon, the abdomen is massaged, and the contents released. This cycle may be repeated three to four times until the colon is clean. Once the prep is complete, the patient is ready to go to the GI lab and have the colonoscopy.
“With colon cancer on the rise … if we could offer colon hydrotherapy as an alternative to patients taking some of the unpleasant preparations, they may be more willing to come in and we may just be able to save a life.”