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It is the second cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. It does not discriminate between male or female. Each year, almost 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with colon cancer. But, did you know that this potentially deadly disease is up to 90% curable if detected and treated early? It can be, and, it all starts with a colon cancer screening and education – both available at Harlingen Medical Center’s nationally recognized Gastrointestinal Laboratory and two Doc Talk Lectures, scheduled in March, featuring Gastroenterologists’ Jason Phillips, M.D. and Nicole Grigg-Gutierrez, M.D.

“March is colorectal cancer awareness month and this is an ideal time to highlight the importance of a colon cancer screening,” said Melanie Little, R.N., Day Patient and Endoscopy Unit Manager at Harlingen Medical Center. “Screenings have helped us find and treat this deadly disease in more and more patients.”

A colonoscopy may very well save your life. That’s the message that Dr. Phillips will convey when he presents the next Harlingen Medical Center Doc Talk Lecture, scheduled for Wednesday, March 8, 2017, at 6:00 p.m., in the Medical Office Building Conference Room, located at 5505 S. Expressway 77, at Harlingen Medical Center. His presentation, titled, Can a Colonoscopy Save Your Life? is structured to educate the public on the importance of this potentially life-saving screening.

Dr. Nicole Grigg-Gutierrez will also offer a Harlingen Medical Center Doc Talk Lecture, titled Colon Cancer Prevention: What Everyone Should Know, and is scheduled for Wednesday, March 15, 2017, at 6:00 p.m., in the Medical Office Building Conference Room at Harlingen Medical Center. Her presentation is structured to educate the public on the signs and warnings that must be heeded to ensure prevention.

According to the Colon Cancer Alliance, symptoms may vary for individuals, but, some of the signs and warnings people should take seriously enough to see their family physician, include:

  • A change in bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in stool
  • Rectal bleeding, or finding blood in your stool
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas, pain or feeling full or bloated
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Chronic fatigue

According to the Colon Cancer Alliance, it is men and women older than 50 years of age who should be screened for colon cancer. This includes those who have a family history of colon polyps or cancer; those with ulcerative colitis and/or Crohn’s disease; and, those with genetic conditions Hereditary Non—polyposis Colon Cancer (HNPCC) or Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP). However, more and more men and women, between the ages of 40 and 50, are finding that they are in need of preventative treatment after discovering they have polyps. Some simply have the screening done because of a family history of cancer.

During a colonoscopy screening at Harlingen Medical Center, if the patient’s gastroenterologist sees any polyps are developing in the patient’s colon, the polyps can be removed right then and there, so the patient doesn’t have to come back for a second procedure.

The polyps which are removed are then sent to a pathologist to determine if they are pre-cancerous.

During the procedure, the physician uses a long flexible, lit tube to look inside the walls of the colon and rectum. Patients must follow a clear liquid diet and take special preparations to clear their bowels prior to having the test – many patients say this is the “worst part” of having a colonoscopy. Since anesthesia is available, many patients report little or no pain or discomfort during the procedure itself.

A colon cancer screening generally takes about 45-minutes, if not less, and can often be performed comfortably and safely without the use of medication. If the screening is determined by the gastroenterologist to be an extensive screening, then the patient will receive a sedative.

National Recognition, ASGE

The Gastrointestinal Laboratory at Harlingen Medical Center is recognized as a national leader in quality by the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE), a leading gastrointestinal medical society. The recognition is the result of the laboratory’s commitment to patient safety and quality in endoscopy and by meeting the ASGE Recognition Program’s rigorous criteria, which includes following the ASGE guidelines on privileging, quality assurance, endoscope reprocessing, Center for Disease (CDC) infection control guidelines and ensuring endoscopy staff competency.

According to the ASGE, a laboratory is only recognized after its staff has demonstrated absolute competence relative to their roles, demonstrated the adoption of unit policies specific to ongoing assessment of performance relative to key quality indicators, and attest that the unit has an established infrastructure and personnel dedicated to infection control and prevention.

If you would like to attend any of the scheduled Doc Talk Lectures, please RSVP to the Harlingen Medical Center Business Development and Marketing Department at 956-365-1027, or at