In this Your Healthy Family, something life saving and generous happened in Colorado Springs over the weekend. Gastroenterology Associates of Colorado Springs, (GACS) held a free colonoscopy day for people who fall into the insurance gap. These are folks who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid or Medicare but don't make enough money to be able to afford insurance.
Dr. Thomas Meister, MD a gastroenterologist with GACS, says this is the 8th year they have put on a free day of colonoscopies. “We feel the need to give back to the community that has been so good to everybody here. Health care has gaps, and we want to help fill those gaps for our community. Colon cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in this country with one hundred thirty-five thousand cases diagnosed per year, and fifty thousand or more deaths per year. By and large those deaths are completely preventable and that cancer never should have needed to be diagnosed.”
Dr. Meister says two important things happen during a colonoscopy. “You do a colonoscopy to identify any pre-cancerous lesions, and if we find them we take them out. You're on your way in 20 minutes.”
Many people find a colonoscopy, something they would rather avoid whether you have insurance or not. Dr. Meister says because they are life saving, they shouldn't be put off for any reason. “There is a lot of hedging on the part of patients which is unfortunate. Roughly a third of patients in the country are un-screened by any method for colon cancer. I found a cancer a month ago, and it's horrible to find. It's horrible for the patient, their family, they're friends and it's horrible for the healthcare team. We know that if that patient would have come in a few years earlier, before [having] symptoms, they would not have colon cancer. They would have had a polyp [removed], and then they would have gone to lunch and had a nice rest of the day.”
Unless there is family history, colon screening should begin at age 50.
In future stories with Dr. Meister, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at screening recommendations and family history, warning signs of colon cancer, and some less invasive screening methods available and their effectiveness.
Gastroenterology Associates of Colorado Springs is a proud sponsor of Your Healthy Family