La Porte, Starke Docs Weigh in on Three Tests That Could Save Your Life

La-Porte-Starke-Docs-Weigh-in-on-Three-Tests-That-Could-Save-Your-Life_01Every day, people decide to delay or skip important health screenings because they are apprehensive. Most of the fear comes from the unknown. La Porte Physician Network physicians are weighing in on three important diagnostic or screening tests that can help calm your fears and maybe even save your life. To schedule any of the exams ordered by your doctor, call (844) 865-7459.

La-Porte-Starke-Docs-Weigh-in-on-Three-Tests-That-Could-Save-Your-Life_02Colonoscopy This test is recommended in general to people every ten years, starting at age 50. About one in 19 people will have colon cancer, and outcomes are much better – with survival rates much higher – if the cancer is caught early. “Colonoscopy is the best test to screen for and detect colon cancer,” said Alexander Igolnikov, M.D., a gastroenterologist with La Porte Physician Network Digestive Care. “If small growths called polyps are detected during the test, they can be removed during the exam. This is important, because polyps can turn into cancer later.”

What to Expect Dr. Igolnikov is only mildly joking when he says the worst part of a colonoscopy is the prep. The day before your exam, you will drink a series of liquids that will cause multiple bowel movements, so your colon is clear for the test. During the exam – which is done at the hospital on an outpatient basis - you will be under what is typically called “twilight sedation” to avoid any discomfort. You likely will not remember the procedure. The physician guides a small device and camera through the rectum and into the colon to observe for any tissue abnormalities. If small growths are found, they can be removed with a small device during the exam, saving you any additional trip to the hospital.

Good to know If you have a family history of colon cancer, or other risk factors like smoking or a history of cancer yourself, you may need a colonoscopy before age 50. Talk to your doctor. A colonoscopy is generally painless, and patients usually resume their normal daily activities after resting for a day. “Almost all of the cases of colon cancer that I see are in people who have put off their exams past the recommended time. Don’t wait; get your colonoscopy,” Dr. Igolnikov said.

La-Porte-Starke-Docs-Weigh-in-on-Three-Tests-That-Could-Save-Your-Life_03Stress Test This test helps see how your heart works during physical activity. “Your doctor may recommend this test if she/he suspects heart disease, such as blocked arteries. Sometimes the test is ordered to help determine heart function after a heart disease diagnosis as well,” said Cardiologist David Gorecki, M.D., with La Porte Physician Network Cardiology Care.

What to Expect A stress test usually involves walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike. Electrodes will be placed on your chest, arms and legs. These are connected to an EKG (electrocardiogram) machine to show your heart rate, rhythm and electrical activity. A blood pressure cuff will be on your arm to check your blood pressure. You will be asked to push yourself as hard as possible during the test, which takes about 15 minutes.

Good to know If you are concerned about not being able to handle the physical activity, remember - the physician, nurse or technician will be in the room with you at all times. You can let them know how you’re feeling. Patients should wear comfortable clothes and walking shoes for their test, and bring your inhaler if you use one.

La-Porte-Starke-Docs-Weigh-in-on-Three-Tests-That-Could-Save-Your-Life_04Mammogram Why You Need It Mammograms are a screening tool for breast cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends women at average risk start having regular mammograms at age 40. “Clinical breast exams, where a doctor or nurse practitioner checks for lumps in the breast area, are important. But a mammogram can detect tumors up to two years before a patient or the physician can feel them,” said Ashley Kirkwood, M.D., an OB/GYN physician with La Porte Physician Network Women’s Care. The American Cancer Society reports that breast cancers found during a screening mammogram tend to be small and still confined to the breast, increasing the chances they can be treated. The five-year survival rate is 98 percent for those whose cancer is detected before it spreads to the lymph nodes.

What to Expect You will need to undress from the waist up and you will be provided a wrap or robe. When your breast is compressed you will feel pressure for a few seconds. A screening mammogram takes about 20 minutes from start to finish and actual breast compression only lasts a few seconds.

Good to know To minimize any discomfort, you may wish to schedule your mammogram at a time when your breasts are less sensitive, such as the week after your period. Let the technician know that you might be sensitive. You may also take an over-the counter pain reliever before your mammogram.