Skip Navigation

Time for Routine Maintenance during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Health, Wellness & You
Monday, March 14, 2011

Colon cancer is the third most common cancer and one of the most preventable. For that reason, Fort HealthCare is making a special effort during March’s Colon Cancer Awareness Month to convince age-appropriate individuals to receive a first-time screening colonoscopy.

colonoscopy yard sign, time for routine maintenanceThe possibility of winning free fuel may not be enough to convince someone to have a colonoscopy. Many people are hesitant to schedule a screening because they have many questions about the procedure, especially concerning potential risks and benefits. Fort HealthCare general surgeon Marc Erickson, MD believes most people are nervous before their first scope because they don’t know what to expect. “Almost always, people find that a colonoscopy is much easier than they imagined, and well worth the hassle if it keeps them from getting colon cancer.”

Erickson provided answers to some common questions, hoping to alleviate some of the fear associated with this procedure.

What is a colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy is a procedure which enables a physician to directly examine the entire colon using images shown on a monitor. A colonoscopy is a quick, easy outpatient procedure that can be vital to a healthy, happy and long life. The process usually lasts only 30 minutes to one hour, and only occasionally causes a small degree of discomfort. It is effective in the diagnosis and/or evaluation of various GI disorders such as colon polyps, colon cancer, diverticulosis, inflammatory bowel disease, bleeding, change in bowel habits, abdominal pain, obstruction and abnormal Xrays or CT scans. It can also be used as an intervention in the removal of polyps or control of bleeding.

Have colonoscopies proven to be effective in the prevention of colon cancer?

Yes. A colonoscopy can prevent colon cancer by detecting and removing polyps, and detecting early cancers. Certain polyps will develop into cancer in as little as five years, which is why regular screening is so important. Recent data show that both the number of new cases of colon cancer and deaths from the disease are decreased when colonoscopy is performed according to established guidelines.

When should I have one?

“Screening colonoscopies are recommended for everyone, beginning at the age of 50. If no polyps are found, repeat exams are recommended every 10 years. If polyps are found the repeat interval is every three to five years depending on the size, number and microscopic appearance of the polyps removed,” says Fort HealthCare general surgeon Jonathon McLaughlin, MD. He then adds, “If an immediate family member has had colon cancer, the age of a first colonoscopy should be at an age 10 years younger than the age at which the family member was diagnosed with cancer. Repeat exams in this situation are never more than five years apart, even when no polyps are found.”

What do I need to do to prepare for the screening?

Preparation for a colonoscopy is an important obstacle in the eyes of many patients, but it need not be. There are a variety of preparation methods for colonoscopy ranging from liquids of varying quantity, enemas or pills which help to cleanse the colon. A clean colon is essential to allow for a careful examination for polyps or other abnormalities. Your doctor can discuss and prescribe the most appropriate preparation method for you, taking into account various factors such as your age, personal preferences, kidney function and physical stamina.

Will it be painful?

Colonoscopy is usually not painful and many patients do not remember the procedure. Almost all colonoscopies can be performed using a form of sedation in which you are very drowsy, but comfortable and still breathing on your own.

As part of Fort HealthCare’s commitment to quality healthcare, new equipment for performing colonoscopies was installed at Fort Memorial Hospital. The Olympus Endoscopy equipment provides high-definition technology for a better picture and higher resolution. This means that surgeons are able to see more clearly any abnormalities that may exist in the colon. This technology places Fort HealthCare at the same level as big city hospitals using similar technology.

Anyone who schedules a first-time colonoscopy at Fort HealthCare by April 15 and completes the procedure by May 30 will receive a $10 fuel card at the time of the appointment. To book
an appointment, call Fort HealthCare Surgical Associates at (920) 563-7900 or the Lake Mills Clinic at (920) 648-7683.

More information, including a 45-minute seminar on colonoscopies, can be found at Fort HealthCare participates in most insurance plans. Many insurances offer coverage for most common, age specific screening tests, including colonoscopies. Please consult with your insurance provider if you have questions about coverage. Visit for more information.