July 2013

March is Colonoscopy Awareness Month • July 15, 2013

For the fourth year DDA will give away 31 screening colonoscopies during the month of March. Because the goal of the program is to perform screenings on patients who might not be screened otherwise, patients must meet certain criteria to be considered. Patients must be 50 or older, unemployed and without health insurance.

According to American Cancer Society, colon cancer is expected to kill about 51,690 people in 2012 in the United States alone. Sadly, many of these deaths could have been prevented with a screening colonoscopy, which current guidelines recommend most people to have when they turn 50. Unfortunately, because screening rates remain lower than they should be, less than 40 percent of colon cancers are found early. With the free-screening program, doctors and staff of The Endoscopy Center and Digestive Disease Associates are doing their best to improve those numbers “The simple fact is that colonoscopies save lives,” said Gastroenterologist Thomas R. Beers, MD. “We enjoy proving that is true.”

With the results from 108 free screening performed over the last three years, Dr. Beers has ample proof that colonoscopies are an invaluable, life-saving tool in detecting colorectal cancer. The results from the free screenings, which Dr. Beers said are on par with national standards, show that out of the 108 screened patients, 54 (50 percent) were found to have polyps (small growths in the colon – colon cancer starts as polyps). Of the 54 cases with polyps, 32 were adenomas – growths with the potential to become colon cancer. This means that 32 out of 108 patients had potentially malignant polyps. The polyps were removed during the colonoscopies, and Dr. Beers said that patients with adenomas are placed on a one, three or five-year recall to rescreen.

Dr. Beers says that although it’s true that screening rates are lower than they should be, he and colleagues are seeing improvement. “The death rate from colorectal cancer has been dropping in both men and women because of this improvement in screening,” he said. “Polyps are being found by screening and removed before they can develop into cancers. Screening is also allowing more colorectal cancers to be found earlier when the disease is easier to cure. In addition, treatment for colorectal cancer has improved over the last several years. As a result, there are now more than 1 million survivors of colorectal cancers in the United States. We want this trend of improvement to continue.”