Seniors Hear About Colon Cancer



Dr. Robert Gilbert

Members of the Senior Circle hosted Dr. Robert Gilbert, the new gastroenterologist at Payson Regional Medical Center at their March 10 Lunch and Learn program.

Gilbert has actually been practicing at PRMC since October. Currently he is in the area on a limited basis, as he also has a practice in Florida.

Gilbert is in Payson every four weeks, seeing new patients (6 to 8) three days and doing endoscopic procedures. However, he is also available through PRMC’s telemedicine program.

Gilbert and his wife decided to become part-time residents of the area to be closer to their son, who is a physician in the PRMC emergency room, and his family.

Originally from Michigan, Gilbert has been practicing since 1980.

Gilbert told members of the Senior Circle colorectal cancer is the third most often diagnosed form of cancer and the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths. He then said early detection, through colonoscopy, results in a good survival rate.

The polyps that most often cause colon cancer are slow growing, taking eight to 10 years to develop into the disease. With a colonoscopy, the polyps can be found and removed, thus reducing the risk of colon cancer.

He said it is recommended that people between 40 and 50 get a colonoscopy, and if there are no risk factors, such as family history, get another every 10 years.

The procedure requires a day of preparation before hand with a liquid diet and laxative to clear the intestinal tract. The day of the procedure, the patient is sedated while the colonoscopy takes place, with all vital signs closely monitored. If a polyp is found, it is photographed, removed and the site photographed again.

“It takes between 15 and 20 minutes,” Gilbert said.

It is a safe procedure, with complications, such as bleeding at the removal site, occurring in only 1 out of 3,000 patients. Once it is completed, the patient rests for about an hour, or until the sedation wears off, and then is sent home. He said the side effects are mild, generally bloating and gas, which subside quickly.

Gilbert talked about some of the symptoms people should be aware of in regard to colon cancer: bleeding from the rectum or blood in the stool; change in bowel habits, such as difficulty in passing solid waste or the size of the stool; unexplained weight loss; or fatigue due to anemia.

“Colon cancer is preventable, beatable and treatable,” Gilbert said.

He is working to develop a way to help primary care physicians make it easier for their patients to get colonoscopies. Gilbert is working with PRMC to implement a Direct Referral Endoscopy program, which could eliminate to need (and cost) of a consultation with the specialist prior to the colonoscopy.


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