An acquaintance of mine was diagnosed with early stage colon cancer several years ago. He underwent surgery to remove the cancerous polyps and that was followed up with chemotherapy. The last time I saw him, he said he was cancer free but was more careful about what he ate and he underwent regular colonoscopies to ensure he remained cancer free.
I asked him what the cancer and subsequent treatment was like and he apologize for his bluntness and then told me it was a royal pain the butt.
Depending on what source one goes to, colorectal cancer is either the second or third leading cause of cancer deaths in America. It’s estimated that around 50,000 people die each year from colorectal cancer. Considering that in 2009, there were about 147,000 colorectal cancer deaths in America, I’d say that there have been significant advancements in detection and treatment.
For many years, the standard test for colon cancer was a procedure known as a colonoscopy. It requires the patient to undergo an intense cleansing process. When I had my first colonoscopy, the cleanse fluid was a gallon of stuff that made me vomit as much as I pooped. Once cleaned out, the doctor puts the patient under a light sedation and then proceeds to slowly insert a flexible tube into the rectal opening and then all the way through the large intestine. The flexible tube has a camera that allows the doctor to see and a tool that allows the doctor to remove smaller polyps. Not only did the cleanse prep make me sicker than a dog on my first colonoscopy, but doctor said I was big and strong and didn’t need any sedation or pain med and he proceeded to carry out the process and it was very painful, causing me to avoid having another for many years.
Today, the cleanses are better and most doctors take care to keep the patient quiet and at ease.
There are now new alternatives to having a colonoscopy. This year, my wife and I both used one of the alternatives, a test known as Cologuard. This was easy and done at home and just mailed in, but some say that Cologuard is not as accurate or good in detecting problems as a colonoscopy.
From all I have seen and studied, it seems that a colonoscopy is the most accurate way to detect the presence of polyps and colon cancer, but it is being revealed that even this procedure is not foolproof and that doctors can still miss a polyp or signs of early cancer.
So, is there anything better or more accurate than a colonoscopy?
Yes, according to a recent report:
“Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S., but colonoscopies have been found to reduce the risk of death from the disease by 70 percent by finding and removing benign polyps before they have time to turn into cancer. Doctors, however, don’t always find every polyp.”
“As a gastroenterologist, CBS News medical contributor Dr. Jon LaPook knows all too well that colon polyps can be tough to spot. They may be partly hiding behind a fold, or so flat and subtle that they’re barely visible to the eye.”
“A new high-tech tool may be able to help doctors spot them. LaPook decided to give the new technology a test run — not as a doctor, but as a patient.”
“The colonoscopy was performed by Dr. Mark Pochapin, chief of gastroenterology at NYU Langone Health. Assisting Dr. Pochapin is a second set of eyes: a computer powered by artificial intelligence.”
“‘The good news is what we do really prevent cancer … but we do miss polyps, and we have to recognize that anybody, no matter how good they are, has the potential to miss something because we’re only human,’ Pochapin said.”
“A recent study published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering found artificial intelligence was able to detect polyps more than 90 percent of the time.”
Many older folks tend to be afraid of, or skeptical of things like artificial intelligence, but then need to understand that in cases like this, artificial intelligence can be a very good thing and help them lead a healthier and longer life.
If you have a history, or your family has a history of colon cancer, you may want to ask your doctor about using artificial intelligence for your next colon screening. You also need to check with your insurance company beforehand.
Chances are, the use of artificial intelligence will soon become the norm.