Happy birthday to you

Happy birthday to you

Happy birthday dear

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Now it's time for a COLONOSCOP-EEEEE

Quite the Hall-mark moment. But a colonoscopy is a gift that could save your life. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths (50,000 per year) in men and women. And it is believed 60 percent of those deaths could be prevented with early screening and appropriate treatment. Colonoscopies allow for precancerous lesions, known as polyps, to be removed before they develop into cancer. And we all know when cancer is found early, hopes for a cure and survival improve.

Here is Dr. Nina's What You Need to Know about colonoscopies:

What is a colonoscopy?: A procedure that allows your gastroenterologist doctor to look at the inner lining of your rectum and colon. They use a special device to visualize polyps, tumors and areas of inflammation or bleeding. Tissue samples can be biopsied (collected) and abnormal growths such as polyps can be removed.

At what age should I have my first colonos-copy?: Regular colonos-copy screenings in people without risk factors should begin at age 50 and age 45 in African Americans. If risk factors are present, discuss with your doctor if you should begin screening at an earlier age. Risk factors include: a personal history of colon cancer or polyps, a personal history of ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, a family history of colon cancer or polyps or certain hereditary polyp syndromes.

Am I one and done?: No. We do not celebrate our birthday only once; but, fortunately, we do not perform colonoscopies yearly. Repeat surveillance in those with a negative test is every seven to 10 years until the age of 75. In those with abnormal tests it needs to be repeated more frequently.

What do I need to do to prepare for my colonos-copy?: Prior to any party, preparation needs to take place. Your colonoscopy will be more accurate if your gastroenterologist can clearly see the inside lining of the intestines. Cleaning out the colon before the colonoscopy in-volves a "prep" that takes one to two days, depending on the type your doctor recommends. The prep causes loose and frequent stools or diarrhea in order to empty your colon.

How long is the colon-oscopy scheduled for?: The procedure typically takes between 15 to 60 minutes depending on what the gastroenterologist finds.

What should I expect on the day of the colonoscopy?: Prior to your colonoscopy, intravenous fluids are started to provide hydration and allow for sedative medications to be administered. You will be placed on monitors that continuously display your heart rate and rhythm, blood pressure and oxygen levels. You also will receive a mask or nasal cannula that delivers supplemental oxygen.

What happens during a colonoscopy?: If polyps or a mass is seen, a biopsy is taken and sent to a laboratory for examination under a microscope by a pathologist. Additionally, because polyps can become cancerous, removing them can prevent colon cancer. Although it may sound uncomfortable, biopsies are typically painless.

What happens after the colonoscopy?: Because sedation is administered, you will need to remain in an observation area for 45 minutes to two hours while the effects of medications have had the opportunity to wear off. Similar to drinking and driving, this is a no-no. A "designated driver" must be appointed to take you home. The medications given for sedation can impair reflexes and judgment.

Knowing what to expect during a colonoscopy can hopefully debunk some of the myths we hear about it. And although not quite as fun as your 50th birthday party, having the procedure may be the key to enjoying many more birthdays down the road. All joking aside, staying colon cancer-free not only includes screenings, but also maintaining communication with your doctor. Inform your doctor if you experience changes in your bowel habits, abdominal pain or weight loss. Feliz cumpleanos!

Dr Nina Radcliff, of Galloway Township, is a physician anesthesiologist, television medical contributor and textbook author. Email questions on general medical topics to her at drninaradcliff@aol.com


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