With the month of March designated as Colon Cancer Awareness Month, there’s no better time to educate yourself, and your family, on the supreme importance of early screening.
Colonoscopy is currently the most effective method of colon cancer screening, and that’s because it doesn’t just detect cancer – it prevents it! With this procedure, physicians can remove suspicious growths in the colon before they become cancerous, the best defense against a more serious outcome.
Here in Forsyth County, we are fortunate to have Gastroenterology Associates of the Piedmont, PA (GAP) in both Winston-Salem and Clemmons locations, where they provide the most compassionate and exceptional care to local patients and those in the surrounding areas.
A successful blend of two of the leading and longest established gastroenterology practices in the Piedmont Triad, GAP is home to North Carolina’s first licensed outpatient endoscopy center. In 2013, these two practices, Piedmont Gastroenterology Specialists (established in 1957) and Salem Gastroenterology Associates (established in 1979), brought together some of the most respected physicians in the community by merging to form what is known as GAP – the name is easy to remember and potentially lifesaving!
GAP is proud to offer the first single-specialty gastroenterology offices in North Carolina to achieve Patient-Centered Specialty Practice recognition from the National Committee for Quality Assurance, as well as two AAAHC accredited ambulatory surgical centers. By obtaining these recognitions, GAP shows its commitment to provide its patients and referring providers with timely communication and measurable, cost-effective, high-quality care – something high on everyone’s priority list these days.
An ambulatory surgical center (ASC) is a convenient alternative to those seeking colonoscopy and endoscopy in an outpatient facility, something that can make the uncertainty of these procedures more comforting. In most cases, procedures performed in the ASC will also result in less out-of-pocket expense for the patient.
As Medical Director of GAP’s ASCs, Dr. Chris Connolley’s goal is to maintain a friendly and accessible atmosphere, in hopes of easing the intimidation patients often feel in the typical procedure setting.
“We recognize that a single experience can impact a patient’s complete outlook about colonoscopy and upper endoscopy,” explains Dr. Connolley. “We strive to provide not only expert gastroenterology services and compassionate care, but also accommodate our patient’s busy lifestyles by offering Saturday morning appointments.”
GAP also offers comprehensive care for patients with other problems related to the digestive system. While many people think that the digestive system only includes the stomach and intestines, it also encompasses the esophagus, pancreas, and liver. GAP is a full-service gastroenterology practice, with a team of 15 board-certified gastroenterologists and six advanced practitioners who work together to provide the latest in contemporary outpatient care. This comprehensive approach has allowed GAP to sub-specialize even further to manage some of the least common and most difficult-to-treat disorders. Many specialized services are available, including Orbera and FMT.
The Orbera gastric balloon system consists of a non-surgical, FDA-approved procedure that helps those patients with a BMI between 30-40, and who have struggled to lose weight with minimal success. The soft, durable silicone balloon is designed to occupy space comfortably in the stomach, resulting in a feeling of fullness which encourages portion control in your daily eating routine. During the 20-minute outpatient procedure, an uninflated balloon is inserted into the stomach of a sedated patient during an upper endoscopy, then filled with sterile saline. After six months, the patient returns for another upper endoscopy, where the balloon is drained and removed. Along with the placement of the balloon, patients are matched with a team of experts in a 12-month program to help establish a completely customized diet and exercise plan that fits their lifestyle. When following the recommended treatment plan, patients are expected to lose an average of three times more weight than they would have without Orbera.
FMT, or Fecal Microbiology Therapy, is a process of fecal donation for recurrent and severe clostridium difficile infection, known as C-diff. A bacteria that can be present in the intestines, C-diff causes problems ranging from mild illness with diarrhea, to a severe, life-threatening condition. By placing feces from a healthy person into the intestine of a patient with C-diff, FMT can establish a colony of bacteria that effectively suppresses the infection, and is very effective – typically over 90% successful – in treating chronically ill patients and those not improving with traditional antibiotic therapy.
GAP also offers a specialized center where their inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) experts know many conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, are chronic and cannot be cured, but can be controlled with proper treatment. Thankfully, there are many new, advanced therapies to choose from, but a correct diagnosis is crucial. GAP’s specialized clinic provides comprehensive care to patients with an established diagnosis through a multi-disciplinary approach. A treatment team made up of highly trained nurse navigators, physicians, nutritionists, psychologists, surgeons, and an in-house infusion clinic, work together to create a personalized plan for each patient. The goal of GAP’s IBD clinic is to educate patients on their individual needs and encourage them to follow their progress in a joint effort to lessen the changes of future illness and hospitalization.
Colon Cancer: What you need to know!
According to the American Cancer Society:
- Colon cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. But thanks to colonoscopy screening, colon cancer-related deaths have decreased 30% in the last ten years.
- Although current guidelines recommend that colonoscopy cancer screening begins at age 50, diagnosis rates in younger adults have increased significantly in recent years. It is predicted that by the year 2030, incident rates in people ages 20-34 will increase by 90% and rates in people ages 35-49 will increase by 27.7%
- Important advice for younger adults:
- Achieve a healthy weight and stay there! Establishing a primary care provider and having annual wellness appointments is an important factor in maintaining better overall health as well.
- Take ANY symptoms seriously! There is no such thing as “normal” rectal bleeding.
- Research your family history. It is estimated that between 20-30% of colorectal cancer diagnoses may be linked to hereditary components. This doesn’t just mean cancer; it’s just as important to know if anyone in your family has a history of polyps (growths in the colon lining that may or may not be cancerous), or Lynch syndrome – an inherited condition that gives a person a higher risk of developing certain cancers.
“Screening doesn’t have to be only for those age 50 and over; learning your family history may help determine whether you would benefit from earlier testing and could potentially save your life,” says Dr. Blake Scott.
Make the month of March your first step towards better health! Visit gapgi.com or call 336-448-2427 to schedule a personal consultation.