Colonoscopies Made Easy
Why they're important and what to expect
It's the screening some of us dread: the colonoscopy. Yet colonoscopies help people stay well and even save lives. "Regular colorectal screening is one of the most powerful weapons for preventing colorectal cancer and finding it at its early stages when it's easier to treat," says Stephen Paul, M.D., gastroenterologist with Digestive Healthcare Associates in Valparaiso.
Colorectal cancer affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups, and is most often found in people aged 50 years or older. In the United States, it is the third most common cancer for both men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Paul assures patients that there's nothing to fear or be embarrassed about when it comes to colonoscopies. In fact, he's been performing more than 1,000 procedures each year for 26 years. "We do this every day and we make people feel comfortable and at ease," he says.
Colonoscopy is simply a way for the doctor to check your colon for polyps or cancer, using a long, thin, flexible tube. During the process, the doctor can find and remove most polyps and some cancers.
Who needs a colonoscopy?
"Guidelines recommend a screening colonoscopy every 10 years for people of average risk, beginning at age 50. However, you may need more frequent or earlier screening if you have a family history of colon cancer or if you have other risk factors, such as evidence of problems in prior colonoscopies," advises Dr. Paul.
Where to begin
You begin with your family doctor who will recommend a screening schedule that's right for you, given your health and family history. "While you don't need a physician to refer you to us, it's best to have a family doctor guide you and help with any other medical problems that you may have," says Dr. Paul.
Dr. Paul is a gastroenterologist and an independent member of the medical staff at Porter Regional Hospital. To schedule an appointment for a colonoscopy with one of the gastroenterologists on Porter's Medical Staff, call the Center's screening coordinator at 219-464-9507.