Embarrassment and colonoscopies

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Every year thousands of people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Our medical staff and surgeons have some of the most incredible tools that exist. However, no amount of tools will ever replace the early detection of cancer. Being able to catch cancer before it spreads opens up so many options. The problem is, early detection requires an active approach. They have to want to beat cancer before it starts. This kind of preemptive thinking is hard for some people. We get so busy with our lives, the last thing we want to think about is cancer. That needs to change. We need to change our perception of the procedure, so embarrassment and colonoscopies don’t go hand and hand.

Normalizing colonoscopies

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed form of cancer in the United States. This is a troubling statistic because it shouldn’t be so prevalent. We understand this disease and have ways to deal with it, but we still need to participate. When a person gets to 45, a colonoscopy should be an expected procedure. It should provoke little to no anxiety. It’s just another check-up with a bit more homework.

We’ve seen it all

I observe a lot of disgust for the procedure. I know the preparation for a colonoscopy is unpleasant, usually resulting in many trips to the bathroom, but it isn’t as bad as you think. What really concerns me is how embarrassed some people are about safeguarding their own health. Embarrassment and colonoscopies seem to be fused, especially in our community. In a hospital, medical staff is trained to confidentially treat a massive range of patients from every walk of life. I guarantee you, the surgeon performing your colonoscopy has seen it all. There is no need to be afraid or embarrassed.

Take a minute to watch this informative video. This video explains the procedure and its benefits.

Take action

If you find yourself avoiding a colonoscopy out of fear or embarrassment, ask yourself, is cancer embarrassing? Sometimes we have to do things that make us uncomfortable and a colonoscopy is definitely on that list but so is cancer. I want people to make the right choice! Be an active participant in your health. If you’re staring down 45, don’t wait for your doctor to bring it up; just ask about getting a colonoscopy. For more information about colon cancer screening at Tri-County Health Care, click here. Call 218-631-3510 to schedule an appointment!

About the guest author: Travis Swartz, DO

Dr. Swartz has a long history of helping people overcome health challenges. His passion for people is evident in and out of the operating room. When he isn’t with patients, Dr. Swartz enjoys spending time with family or fitting in a remodeling project.

Step-by-step guide to colonoscopies

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All too often, people fear the unknown. In the realm of healthcare, this is especially true. Part of receiving care at a hospital or clinic is getting quality consultation about procedures, medication and better living practices. Colonoscopies are no different. If a person is approaching 50 years of age, it’s time to start thinking about scheduling a colonoscopy. However, many people in this age range put it off. Using this guide is a step in the right direction.

Travis Swartz, DO, has spent a great deal of his career performing this procedure, helping hundreds stave off colon cancer. According to Dr. Swartz, the main reason people avoid a colonoscopy is embarrassment. They think being sedated and having an endoscope inserted into their rectum is an invasion of privacy with outcomes not worth the hassle. This belief is simply not true. Although it is not a fun activity, screening is a great tool to discover cancer.

A step-by-step guide

A great way of reducing anxiety is to break things down into pieces. Dr. Swartz has put together a guide to coloscopies at Tri-County Health Care. It covers everything from the initial consultation to discharge.

Travis Swartz, DO, wants you to take steps toward better colorectal health.

Travis Swartz, DO

  • According to the Mayo Clinic, a person should receive a colonoscopy around 50. Follow-up colonoscopies will depend on a patient’s risk for cancer.
  • Typically, a primary care provider discusses a colonoscopy during an appointment. If they don’t, ask about it. An active approach is the best way to prevent colon cancer.
  • The procedure usually takes place about a week after scheduling.
  • There is preparation to do before a colonoscopy. Cleansing the colon is the most difficult aspect of the process. A patient will need to consume around a gallon of liquid mixed with a medicine that will force bowel movements.
  • Avoid red or blue liquids because they create issues with the imaging equipment.
  • You will get a confirmation call before the appointment.
  • After check-in, you are brought to a private room and to meet with the surgeon. Shortly after, patients meet with the anesthetist.
  • The patient goes back to the colonoscopy suite. In the suite, a surgeon, a reporter and an assistant will complete the procedure.
  • The patient is sedated during a colonoscopy. The actual procedures takes around 30 minutes. The entire process takes around three to four hours.
  • After, the patient returns to the private room. The patient enjoys a meal and sent home.


Technology, colonoscopies have come a long way. The screening only takes a few hours. The patient goes home the same day with no special instruction for recovery. According to Dr. Swartz, patients are usually very tired from being up most of the night. Most go immediately home to enjoy a nice nap.

Tri-County Health Care offers multiple colon cancer screening options. Visit TCHC.org for more information about screenings. Call 218-631-3510 to schedule.

Colorectal cancer: get screened, catch it early

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Colorectal cancer isn’t something that people typically like to talk about, even though it is quite common – being the second-leading cause of cancer deaths for men and women in the U.S. – and is very treatable if found early. However, the potential discomfort of the colonoscopy screening causes some to treat it as an inconvenient or unnecessary part of their health care.The outside of Tri-County Health Care building is lit blue in recognition of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, so this week, March 4-8, Tri-County Health Care is drawing attention to the importance of colorectal cancer screenings and showing support for local cancer patients by illuminating the south entrance of its Wadena campus in blue lights. Employees also dedicated a day to wearing blue and raising money for the Colon Cancer Coalition.

In addition, cities across the area, including Wadena, Verndale, Sebeka, Ottertail and New York Mills, have released mayoral statements recognizing and honoring March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.


A sneaky disease

Colorectal cancer often begins in your large intestine as a small clump of non-cancerous cells called polyps. These polyps can eventually grow into cancer over time, but sometimes you don’t even know you have them until they have grown into a more advanced cancer.

When Wadena resident Karla suffered intense stomach pain, she put off seeing her provider, thinking the symptoms would pass. They didn’t. She managed to get to ReadyCare where the providers discovered a blockage in Karla’s bowel and admitted her quickly for surgery. It was successful in removing the blockage, but it revealed a new underlying problem: colon cancer.

After months of recovering from her major surgery, Karla began chemotherapy treatment at Tri-County Health Care under the watchful eyes of oncologist Wade Swenson, M.D., and the team in the Infusion and Cancer Center.

“Dr. Swenson is very good. It’s nice that he comes here,” Karla said. “The whole team here is great.”

Karla has been on multiple types of treatment, often switching between chemo pills and chemo infusions, each with its own set of side effects. She has a long road ahead, but she tries to keep herself busy in order to get through it. “I go to work, and I have a dog and a cat. I have a garden in the summertime. You’ve got to keep pushing.”

Karla’s case may seem unique because she didn’t experience typical colon cancer symptoms – blood in her stool, unexplained weight loss, etc. – but this is common when the cancer is in the early stages, which is exactly when it’s important to find the cancer so that treatment has the best chance of being successful. That’s why regular screenings are so important.

Karla agreed, noting that the single most important thing she thinks about colon cancer is catching it fast.


What can you do to reduce your risk?

Colorectal cancer is not uncommon and does not only happen to older individuals. In fact, one in 23 Americans will be diagnosed in their lifetime, and 1 in 5 of those will be diagnosed before the age of 55. So what should you do to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer?

The American Cancer Society recommends that you start getting screened at age 45, but if you have a family history of the disease, your screenings should start even earlier.

Other ways to reduce your risk include maintaining a healthy lifestyle and diet, avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, and being aware of the symptoms and telling your provider if you experience them.

Tri-County Health Care offers colonoscopies, as well as a minimally invasive option called Cologuard. Talk to your provider about your potential risk factors and if you should be screened.

Skip the colonoscopy with a non-invasive alternative

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By Dylan Folkestad, M.D.


It’s well known that cancer screening has the potential to save lives. By catching cancer early, we can start treating right away when there’s a greater chance that it could be cured. Because March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, it’s a good time to remind you that routine screening is recommended starting at age 45.

Screening is incredibly important, especially for colorectal cancer. It’s a common disease, with the risk of the general population developing it being 1 in 23. And if you Photo of an elderly couple, who still enjoy each other, on a hiking trip togetherscreen it appropriately, it’s a curable disease.

Now, when you hear colorectal cancer screening, your mind probably goes right to colonoscopies. While it’s true that colonoscopies are one of our key colorectal cancer screenings, there is actually a less invasive option.

This comes in the form of Cologuard, a stool-based DNA test that you can complete in the privacy of your own home. It works by detecting blood or protein in your stool that may indicate cancer. The kit is mailed directly to your home, which you can complete and mail back without having to come in for an appointment. You also don’t have to follow strict preparation instructions such as following a special diet, enduring a bowel prep, or having a pre-op physical. Your provider would then discuss the results with you.

So how do you know if Cologuard is an option for you?

If your provider recommends a colorectal screening and you’ve had a colonoscopy in the past, then you may be a candidate. You may also be eligible for Cologuard if you are at low risk for colorectal cancer, don’t have a family history of cancer or aren’t exhibiting symptoms related to colorectal cancer.

However, if you opt for the Cologuard test and it comes back positive, then your provider may order a colonoscopy. Colonoscopies offer visualization of the entire colon, Digital medical illustration: Perspective x-ray view of human colon with tumor. Anatomically correct. Isolated on black. allowing us to potentially identify early cancer polyps or other pathologies that can’t be detected with Cologuard.


About Cologuard

Cologuard was created by Exact Sciences in collaboration with the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2014 after undergoing a rigorous review process. The test was available at TCHC starting in 2017.

According to the official website for Cologuard, the test detected 92 percent of cancer in 10,000 participants who had an average risk for colon cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that Cologuard be performed once every three years.


For more information, speak with your provider about your options for colorectal screening tests.


Cologuard - Dylan Folkestad

About the Author: Dylan Folkestad, M.D., specializes in family medicine at the Henning clinic. He attended medical school at the University of Minnesota, completed his residency at the University of Minnesota Family Medicine – St. John’s Hospital, and is board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine.

No More Colonoscopy??????????

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By: Dr. Kloss

David Kloss

Dr. Kloss

Could that be true? Are you kidding me? You tell me this AFTER I drank that half gallon of orange flavored stuff that made me poop all night long?

So why am I writing (again) about poop? More than 150,000 people in the USA will develop colorectal cancer and 50,000
people will die of colorectal cancer this year. Colorectal cancer is the number two cancer killer in the USA. It comes in behind lung cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer come in third in women and men, respectively.

It’s alarming statistics like this that has me talking about poop (by the way, the editor told me it was impolite to use the other word). Colorectal cancer kills a lot of people in our country. One in 20 of us will develop colorectal cancer in our lifetime. That certainly means that we likely know several people (and possible ourselves) who will develop colon cancer.


So research tells us that we should each have our colonoscopy when we hit the 50-year mark. Or if we have a family history of a first-degree relative, then we should have that colonoscopy at a younger age. If you have suspicious symptoms (rectal bleeding for instance) you should have your colonoscopy too. With the colonoscopy, the doctor can pick up small polyps or even an early colon cancer (noninvasive) and REMOVE it through the scope! NO SURGERY NEEDED! And, a much higher chance of a CURE!

But what about that statement at the beginning of this article? Could it be true? No more colonoscopies?

In August of 2014, the FDA approved a stool test that checks your stool sample for minute pieces of DNA from colon polyps or colon cancer cells. This is almost Star Trek style technology! Over the last 20 years or so, scientists and doctors have learned more about cancer biology, cancer cells and in particular the DNA changes that occur in cancer cells. These DNA changes have been mapped and identified; much like a hunter can track a doe or a buck through the snow by the tracks left behind, here doctors can track the cancer cell or colon polyp, by the tracks it leaves behind.

Is that clear as mud? Each of our cells have DNA inside of it that tell the cell what to do. In a cancer cell, the DNA has bad areas (mistakes) that allow that cell to grow wildly. But normal and cancer cells die…. just like the dead skin cells that you lose in the shower each day. So when the colon cancer cells die and are shed off into the stool as it passes, the cells can be collected and measured in the stool. A sample can be collected with a little stick.

Very specialized testing can be done and actually measure this minute DNA material! Not only can scientists measure the actual DNA material, they can measure the very specific area of your DNA that has the ABNORMAL cancer causing area.

Screen for Life: Basic Factsheet English (color)

If your stool is clear of the cancer causing DNA, then with very high accuracy, your doctor will know that you DO NOT HAVE colon polyps or colon cancer! A simple stool sample mailed into a very special lab can save you the bowel prep and save you the colonoscopy. Exciting stuff!!! (Only someone over 50 will understand how exciting this is!)

Is this test for everyone? Unfortunately not yet, only asymptomatic people are candidates for this test. Also, if you’ve had polyps before, colon cancer before, or if you have a positive family history you are NOT a candidate for this new test. You, my friends, are still stuck with the bowel prep and the colonoscopy. But take heart, each year scientists learn more about cancer causing DNA and perhaps in the not too distant future everyone can skip the all night pooping and the early morning colonoscopy date with me!

So don’t forget, no cancer screening test does you any good, if you don’t get screened! So whether or not you are a candidate for this new DNA colon cancer test or not, GET SCREENED!!! It saves lives! Maybe even yours.