Mother’s Memory

At heart of decision to be screened

Maureen Armstrong, 70, put off having a colonoscopy until just last fall. For years her doctor encouraged her to get this important screening, especially because her mother had colorectal cancer.

“My primary care physician has been after me, every time I see him, so finally I did it. It’s not as bad as people fear, not at all!” said Maureen. She went to Diane Bai, MD, gastroenterologist at Franciscan Digestive Care Associates. “Everyone was very professional and made me feel so at ease. The whole thing was stress-free.

“After I was sedated, I fell asleep. The next thing I knew I was coming out of it, and everything was done. It was painless,” said Maureen, who was given a clean bill of health. “Because of my family history, I have to have another one in five years, and I’m not worried a bit.”

Why colonoscopy matters

Nobody will blame you if a colonoscopy isn’t exactly something you look forward to. But if you’ve never had one, you might be surprised at how easy this screening really is — and it might save your life.

Some patients are fearful about having their first colonoscopy because it’s an unknown. After they’ve had one, they eldom have fears about it again,” said M. Frank Lyons, MD, gastroenterologist at Franciscan Digestive Care Associates. “With every procedure I perform, I strive to let the patient know he or she is the most important person on the planet at that moment. Most patients sense when you really care about their health needs the way we do.”

About one in three people who get colorectal cancer die of it. Along with detecting the disease, a colonoscopy can actually prevent it. During the procedure, doctors can remove growths called polyps that may turn into cancer if they’re left alone. To make sure polyps are visible, your physician will give instructions for cleaning out your colon the day before. This preparation, which may include drinking a cleansing solution, is very important.

When to get screened

“Most people should have a colonoscopy at age 50 and then, if the results are normal, repeat it every 10 years,” said John Carrougher, MD, division chief of gastroenterology for Franciscan Medical Group and medicaldirector for Franciscan Digestive Care Associates.

You might need the screening sooner or more often, if you’re at higher risk. Talk with your doctor about the schedule that’s right for you. Factors that raise your risk include the following:

  • Previously having colon polyps or colorectal cancer
  • Having a family member who had colon or rectal cancer
  • Having a family member age 60 or younger with colon polyps
  • Having inflammatory bowel disease
  • Being African American
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 Maureen Armstrong
Maureen Armstrong