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Prevention is key. And, nowhere is that more affirmed than when you are dealing with your health. That is why Harlingen Medical Center is observing National Colon Cancer Awareness Month, this March, and is encouraging you, and your loved ones, to get screened – via a colonoscopy.

The award-winning and nationally recognized hospital is home to the Gastrointestinal Laboratory at Harlingen Medical Center, which the laboratory is recognized as a national leader in quality by the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE), a leading gastrointestinal medical society.

The ASGE recognition is the result of the hospital’s commitment to patient safety and quality in endoscopy and by meeting the ASGE Endoscopy Unit 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.

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.

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

The Gastrointestinal Laboratory at Harlingen Medical Center has its “Certificate of Recognition” from the ASGE, which identifies it in a short list of healthcare facilities across the country that offer endoscopy services.

According to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, a laboratory will be recognized only after its staff has demonstrated absolute competence relative to their roles, demonstrated the adoption of policies specific to ongoing assessment of performance relative to key quality indicators, and attest that the laboratory has an established infrastructure and staff dedicated to infection control and prevention. Another important element of the recognition is the completion, by staff, of an educational course titled, “Improving Quality and Safety in Your Endoscopy Unit.” This course thoroughly reviews related guidelines.

Endoscopy is performed by specially trained physicians called endoscopists utilizing the most up-to-date technology to diagnose and treat diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. Utilizing flexible, thin tubes called endoscopes, endoscopists are able to access the human digestive tract without incisions via natural orifices. Endoscopes are designed with high-intensity lighting and fitted with precision devices that allow viewing and treatment of the gastrointestinal system.

During the month of March, Harlingen Medical Center will host two Doc Talk Lectures that will feature topics related to Colon Cancer Awareness. One lecture will feature Dr. Jason Phillips, Gastroenterologist, and, is titled, Can a Colonoscopy Save Your Life? This lecture is 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.

The second will feature Dr. Nicole Grigg-Gutierrez, Gastroeneterologist, is 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.

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