Q&A Topic: Colorectal Cancer and Colonoscopy

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Jerald D. Wishner, MD, FACS

Q. I’ll be 50 next month and the thought of a colonoscopy makes me nervous. What should I expect?
A. One of biggest misconceptions is that a colonoscopy will be painful or uncomfortable. You’ll barely know you’ve had one. You’ll be sedated, making the procedure painless. Other than some post-colonoscopy grogginess and a little bloating, you won’t feel a thing. The toughest part is the day before when you have to take laxatives to clear the colon.Colon cancer begins in polyps inside the colon, and it can take five to eight years to develop. If pre-cancerous polyps are found, the doctor can remove them during the procedure. Should a colonoscopy detect cancer that can’t be treated during the procedure, surgery is the next step.

Q. If I need surgery what are my options?
A. There are a few options: traditional open surgery, laparoscopic, and robot-assisted. Find out if your doctor is—or can refer you to a surgeon who is—board certified and trained in colorectal robot-assisted surgery. You’ll get the best information and best range of options from a surgeon who has experience with open incision, laparoscopic, and robotic techniques. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each as they pertain to your condition. Spend time weighing these options and discussing them with your regular doctor and your surgeon.

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Q. How is robot-assisted surgery different from laparoscopic surgery?
A. Both are minimally invasive with a faster recovery and less scarring than open surgery. However, robot-assisted surgery offers several advantages. With the da Vinci® Surgical System, used at Northern Westchester Hospital, the surgeon sits at a console and controls a high-definition, 3D-camera and highly-specialized, “wristed” instruments that cut, clamp, and suture through tiny incisions. Better visualization (3D vs 2D) allows critical structures to be seen in much finer detail. Together, the advanced imaging and “wristed” instruments enable precise surgeries and the ability to preserve more of your healthy tissue.

Q. In addition to a colonoscopy, is there anything else I can do to reduce my risk for colon cancer?
A. There are lifestyle choices you can make: Eating a high-fiber diet, maintaining your weight, and staying active will significantly reduce your risk, according to the research. If you have a parent, sibling, or child who developed colorectal or a related cancer such as endometrial, stomach, pancreas, ovary, kidney, or brain before they turned 50, you may want to talk to your doctor about getting genetic counseling.

Northern Westchester Hospital
Co-Director, Institute of Robotic and Minimally Invasive Surgery
Medical Director, Colorectal Surgery Program
Learn More About Dr. Wishner

Northern Westchester Hospital is a proud member of Northwell Health (formerly North Shore-LIJ Health System)

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