Colon Cancer: Choosing a Doctor and What to Ask
Talking With Your Health Care Professional About Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer screening tests save lives. These tests not only detect colorectal cancer early, but can prevent colorectal cancer. Screening tests can detect and remove polyps (grape-like growths on the lining of the colon or rectum). Removing these polyps can prevent colorectal cancer from ever occurring. At age fifty, or younger if you are in a higher risk group, you should discuss colorectal cancer screening with your healthcare provider. Here are some questions to help you begin this important conversation:
1. I just turned 50 years old. Should I be tested for colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer?
2. I don?t have a family history of colorectal cancer or of colorectal polyps. Should I still be tested?
3. My medical history and/or my family medical history increases my risk for colorectal cancer; should I be tested at a younger age or more frequently?
4. I understand there are a number of screening tests available; would you tell me about each of these tests and the risks and benefits?
5. I don’t know which screening test is appropriate for me. Which test do you recommend and why?
6. Will you perform the test? If not, who will?
7. Will I be awake or asleep during the test?
8. What will happen during the test?
9. Will the test hurt?
10. How will I learn the results of the test?
11. What kind of follow-up care will I need if the tests show a problem?
12. If the tests show nothing wrong, when should I be tested again?
13. What is the cost of these tests? Will my insurance cover the cost?
How to Choose a Gastroenterologist to Perform a Colonoscopy
A gastroenterologist is a physician with special training in diseases of the gastrointestinal tract – the system that helps you digest and eliminate food. Many of these physicians are also trained to perform procedures such as colonoscopy. This is a test that uses a long, thin tube that moves through the colon and rectum and produces images of the entire colon which can be viewed on a computer screen. This is called an endoscopic procedure and health care professionals who perform these are called endoscopists.
Colonoscopy is one procedure that can be done to detect and remove polyps – grape like growths on the lining of the colon or rectum. Doctors can also perform a procedure called a polypectomy to remove these polyps. The polyps are then sent to a laboratory and evaluated by a pathologist. A pathologist is a doctor who checks tissue or fluid taken from the body to see if it is normal or abnormal (diseased). Pathologists use a microscope to do this. Your healthcare provider can help you choose an endoscopist. The following questions may also be useful for choosing a physician to perform the procedure. The answers to all of these questions should be yes. This will assure you that you are seeing a trained endoscopist who will safely perform your procedure.
1. Are you a licensed medical doctor?
2. Have you had formal training in gastrointestinal endoscopy – more than a course of several days or self-taught instruction?
3. When you perform the procedure, are you able to move through the entire colon? (This is called cecal intubation. Your doctor should have a cecal intubation rate of at least 90 percent.)
4. Do you perform more than 100 colonoscopies annually?
5. Do you have privileges to perform the procedure at a licensed health care facility or hospital?
6. If I have a polyp, will you remove it during the colonoscopy?
7. Do you offer intravenous sedation for colonoscopy (a needle is put into a vein and delivers medication that makes you sleepy)?
8. Do you monitor blood pressure, pulse and blood oxygen levels while patients are sedated?
9. Will a trained endoscopic assistant or nurse be there during the procedure?
Educate yourself and the ones you love
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, founded by the Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation. Colorectal cancer is preventable, and is easy to treat and often curable when detected early. Talk with your health care professional about colorectal cancer today.
This content was taken from the 2007 NCRCAM Tool Kit and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission, 2007.
More features about colon cancer:
- Colon Cancer Overview
- About the Colon and Rectum
- Colorectal Cancer: Myths and Realities
- Risk Factors of Colon Cancer
- 5 Steps to Lowering Your Risk of Colorectal Cancer
- Symptoms, Tests, and Staging of Colon Cancer
- Screening for Colon Cancer
- Screen Out Colon Cancer in Women
- Colon Cancer and African Americans
- 20 Most Frequently Asked Questions About Colorectal Cancer
For more information:
Go to the Colon Cancer health topic.