Colonoscopies Remain the Most Reliable Method for Detecting Colorectal Cancer

Approximately 150,000 people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year, but it has a 90 percent five-year cure rate when diagnosed early. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and a time for patients, survivors and advocates to join together to spread awareness about the importance of regular screening.

Allowing a gastroenterologist or surgeon to look inside the entire large intestine, a colonoscopy is the most effective way to detect colorectal cancer in its infancy. It gives doctors an opportunity to find and remove polyps before they develop into colorectal cancer.

“The reason a colonoscopy is the gold standard is because we can actually diagnose and treat at the same time,” said CHI St. Vincent gastroenterologist Dr. Neelima Rao. “You don’t know that you’re growing these polyps until we actually go in and take a look and remove them.”

A routine colonoscopy is typically recommended beginning at age 45, but many patients resist or put off screenings because of fear or apprehension for the preparation, which includes a clear-liquid diet and prescription laxative in the days before the procedure.

“I would say see your gastroenterologist,” Dr. Rao said. “All of the stories are not true. The preps have changed over the last several years and they are not as bad as they used to be.”

Dr. Rao is part of the team of specialists at the CHI St. Vincent Gastroenterology Clinic in Little Rock, which offers a comprehensive range of gastrointestinal services and facilities with specialists devoted to the highest level of digestive disease care.