BARELY HALF CONSCIOUS with the anesthetic agent given to me by Dr. Mon Pesigan, tears welled down my eyes as Dr. Choy Nolasco removed the 4th polyp in my colon which she discovered during colonoscopy earlier this week.
Colonoscopy is a relatively simple but life-saving procedure to visualize the entire length of the big intestines or colon. Done by a skilled gastroenterologist like Dr. Nolasco, it can detect polyps and other abnormalities that could turn into cancer if left undetected. During the procedure, these polyps can already be excised, as was done in my case.
Choy and Mon thought I was in pain due to the air she (Choy) pumped into my large bowels to dilate it and make the polyps more visible and accessible. The pain and discomfort were bearable; Mon?s anesthetic expertise took care of that.
The tears were due to two emotions: gladness and gratitude that the polyps?one of which was quite big already and almost ripe to become a cancerous tissue?were discovered early enough before they could become a fully developed Big C perhaps in a few years; and sadness as I remembered my two elder brothers whose lives were taken by colon cancer.
One of the leading causes
Colorectal cancer is now one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in the Philippines. The colon and rectum are the two main parts of the large intestine also called the large bowel. During colonoscopy, the doctor inserts a long, flexible, lighted tube called a colonoscope, or scope, into the anus and slowly through the entire large bowels.
A small camera mounted on the scope transmits a video image from inside the large intestine to a computer screen, so the doctor can assess the intestinal lining and detect polyps, other tumors and inflammation. An anesthesiologist is usually present to make the procedure pain-free for the patient.
During the procedure, the gastroenterologist can take samples from abnormal-looking tissues and send it to the lab for more thorough study using the microscope.
Colonoscopy usually takes less than an hour. Except for some cramping or bloating, one wakes up from the procedure feeling rested and relaxed from the short-acting sedative one is given for anesthesia.
The sedative may take some time to completely wear off so one should not rush home immediately after. If done as an out-patient, one may have to wait one to two hours until he or she is fully awake. Driving or operating any machinery is usually not permitted in the next 24 hours following the procedure.
Rare side effects which should immediately be referred to the attending physician if present are:
? severe abdominal pain
? bloody bowel movements
Even if one has no symptoms, routine colonoscopy to look for early signs of cancer should begin at age 50; but for those with a strong family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, it should be done earlier. If normal, it can be repeated every five years, which is so little a price to pay for early detection of a potentially life-threatening illness.
My two elder brothers? advanced colon cancers were detected at more or less the same age?the same age I?m also in now. It seems that our genes had it all programmed right at the start?some sort of a factory defect?that would manifest eventually at this age. And my two brothers sacrificed their lives to forewarn me, and save me from developing this dreaded disease.
Mon kept on asking me if I was okay as I continued to cry after the procedure. In my half dreamful state, I couldn?t help it. It seemed like my two elder brothers were there standing beside me, happy that their younger brother had been saved from the menace that killed them.