Quad Cities, IL/IA

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Local Gastroenterologist Encourages Early Screenings to Combat This Highly Preventable Cancer


Submitted by Mississippi Valley Endoscopy Center

What’s the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States?

Despite high-profile public awareness campaigns, as well as multiple resources available from healthcare professionals and online, many of us don’t know the correct response to this question.

The answer is colorectal cancer, or cancer of the colon or rectum. Every year 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people die from it.

Here in the Quad Cities, Dr. Chandrahasegowda (who goes by Dr. Shashi) has been using his expertise to combat this highly preventable cancer for more than 20 years. As a surgeon with the Gastrointestinal Clinic of the Quad Cities, he conducts hundreds of colonoscopies at the Mississippi Valley Endoscopy Center, 3400 Dexter Ct. #200 in Davenport, to save lives in our community.
We sat down with Dr. Shashi to discuss new advances in the fight against colorectal cancer and find out more about his passion for preventing this disease.

Tell us why early screening for colorectal cancer is so important.
Colorectal cancer is preventable — but only when it’s caught early. That’s why regular screening after the age of 50 is so important. While there are several tests to screen for colorectal cancer, the colonoscopy remains the gold standard when it comes to early screening. That’s because you’re not only able to detect polyps, which are growths on the inner surface of the colon, but also remove them before they become cancerous. That saves lives!

As a gastroenterologist, I’m able to see the success of this approach every day in my clinic. It’s very satisfying to help prevent cancer and contribute to decreasing the cancer’s overall mortality rate.

Getting a colonoscopy may seem scary to a lot of people. Have there been any changes to the procedure itself that have made it an overall better experience for the patient?
There have! Your colon has to be empty and clean in order for the physician to get a proper look at it. Many people dread the laxatives that need to be taken beforehand to make that happen. It’s now possible to split the dose of the bowel prep — taking half the dose the night before and half the morning of the procedure. This makes the process a little more pleasant, and has actually been shown to be more effective than doing it all at once.

The facility at which the colonoscopy takes place can also have a huge impact on the overall experience. The team of healthcare professionals at the Mississippi Valley Endoscopy Center is outstanding. The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) recently recognized the Center for “excellence in patient safety and care.”

Many of our patients are pleasantly surprised by the relative ease of their experience at the Mississippi Valley Endoscopy Center — from registration through discharge. The Center is convenient and comfortable and maintains superior levels of quality and safety. Mild sedation to full general anesthesia is available to ease the anxiety associated with procedures.

A recent study revealed a rise in colorectal cancer among young people. This set off alarm bells for many people. What should our readers know about this new research?

Cancers of the colon and rectum have been declining in older adults in recent decades and have always been considered rare in young people. But a recent study from the American Cancer Society that analyzed cancer incidence by birth year revealed an increase in colorectal cancers in adults in their 20s and 30s. This surprised many people, including physicians.

In my practice, I can recall two younger patients who had some concerning symptoms. But, since they were so young, I didn’t initially consider colorectal cancer as a real possibility. Now with this new study, when I have younger patients who come in with concerns, I typically conduct a flexible sigmoidoscopy, which is similar to a colonoscopy. The procedure uses a thin, flexible, hollow, lighted tube called a sigmoidoscope that has a tiny video camera on the end to check the rectum and lower part of the colon for abnormalities.

Are there symptoms our readers — both young and old — should be watching for?

Unfortunately, the most common symptom is no symptom at all. Most people who have colorectal cancer have no idea they have it. That’s part of the reason why screening is so important.

However, some patients experience rectal bleeding, blood in stool, cramping, fatigue, or a change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool.

Who is most at risk for colorectal cancer?

The single biggest risk for colorectal cancer is still age. The majority of cases occur after the age of 50. The exception to that is if someone in your family has had colon or rectal cancer. People with a history of colorectal cancer in a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) are at increased risk and will likely need to start screening earlier. The risk is even higher if that relative was diagnosed with cancer when they were younger than 45, or if more than one relative is affected.

There are also some medical conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease — which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis — that cause a long-standing inflammation in the colon and rectum that can lead to cancers in those locations. Some evidence also suggests that diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes, is a potential risk factor for colorectal cancer.

Let’s pretend we have the ability to look into the future. What do you think the fight against colorectal cancer will look like 10 years from now?
In many ways, we’ve got a pretty good solution to the problem now. Screening is effective for preventing and detecting this disease early.

The biggest barrier at this point is participation. We need to make sure everybody is aware of the need for early screening, and that people stop avoiding the outpatient procedure because they are worried about the experience. Professionals like those at the Mississippi Valley Endoscopy Center make patients feel at ease, and they are experts in their field.

To learn more about Dr. Shashi and Gastrointestinal Clinic of the Quad Cities, call 309-277-9220. To learn more about the Mississippi Valley Endoscopy Center, go to www.mvhealth.net and visit Facebook at facebook.com/Mississippi ValleySurgeryCenter.