Having been diagnosed with prostate cancer does not make you immune to developing another cancer. Look specifically at me; I have now been diagnosed with five different, primary cancers. Not only do we remain susceptible to developing another, unrelated primary cancer, we also are at an increased risk of developing a secondary cancer that is related to our prostate cancer treatment.
This means that we all need to stay diligent, not only about our prostate cancer, but about the potential we all have of developing another cancer. One of the best screening tools we have for the detection of colon cancer, another very common and potentially deadly cancer, is a routine screening colonoscopy.
Colonoscopies themselves are not without some risks. Some men can have a negative response to the sedatives used during the procedure, there is always, although very small risk, of having the colon perforated by the colonoscopy scope and now we also learn about the possibility of increasing our risk for colon cancer by how the screening colonoscopy is performed.
In a recent study researchers, reviewed 76,810 screening colonoscopies performed over six years by 51 gastroenterologists at a large practice in Minnesota. They found that on average the colonoscopy withdrawal times lasted nearly nine minutes, but about 10 percent of the doctors had individual averages of less than six minutes.
The startling fact that they found was that in the patients whose screenings were performed by doctors whose average colonoscopy withdrawal time lasted less than six minutes were twice as likely to develop colorectal cancer within five years as those whose doctors’ colonoscopy withdrawal time averaged more than six minutes. They also found that when colonoscopy withdrawal times were longer than eight minutes the person did not have any additional reduction in their cancer risk.
Current guidelines do call for this delayed, slower withdrawal time, but as we see not all doctors conform to the guideline. This research supports the current guidelines, so we must speak to our doctors prior to having a colonoscopy and remind them of the importance of their conforming to the current guidelines.
Take it from someone who does have a type of colon cancer, colon cancer and its treatments is not fun. It is vial that we have regular screening, but we need to make sure that our doctors don’t get careless and withdraw the scope too quickly.
Given that some doctors “forget,” it is our job to remind them of the importance of conforming to the standards.
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