A Deadly Secret
It's a scary thing when you're afraid to do as your doctor ordered. But sometimes fear is a good thing. In the story you are about to read, there is the distinct possibility that trepidation may overtake a conscientious decision. That is not the intent of this writer. The sole purpose is to elicit awareness.
What I am about to reveal is shocking. Especially since each day those of us 50, or nearing 50, are being ordered to undergo a Colonoscopy. As we have come to learn, it is the only definable test to determine if we are at risk of Colon Cancer.
When newswoman, Katie Couric's husband succumbed to his battle with colon cancer, the war became a national cry. Katie, famous newswoman, even endured cameras while she underwent a Colonoscopy on national television. As well intentioned as this was, what Katie didn't know could have caused her nearly as much doom as the Cancer she was protecting herself from contracting.
What Katie did not know, is that there is not an enforceable system of sterilization of these invasive instruments. The truth is in this country, we do not sterilize these instruments. We bathe them in a disinfectant solution. They're not scrubbed. Not disassembled. Not heated. They're rinsed in an ineffective bath. Furthermore, the disinfectant, Gluteraldehyde, used in the endoscopic bath, if not rinsed off thoroughly, has been cited as a possible cause of Colitis.
For those unfamiliar with the mechanisms of an endoscope, a bronchoscope, a proctoscope, a sigmoidoscope, or a colonscope, they are invasive instruments intended to examine our esophagus, lungs, or our colon. Mechanically, they are flexible and have moving integrated parts including, valves, joints, intricate channels, crevices, and pores.
Without proper sterilization it is impossible to remove fecal matter, blood, tissue, and mucus from prior patient examinations. According to David L. Lewis, PhD, research microbiologist at the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Exposure Research Laboratory in Athens, GA., when these instruments are examined under close scrutiny, it is not uncommon to see heavy encrustations of dried blood and tissue matter.
Therefore, the possibility of passing along a life-altering disease from one patient to another becomes a shocking scenario most of us don't want to consider. The professional jargon for this occurrence is cross-contamination.
your physician will most likely adamantly deny the possibility of
cross-contamination, the facts do not support this contention. It is well
documented that a patient undergoing a Colonoscopy has the distinct
possibility of contracting a disease such as one of the following, from a
non-sterile instrument: HPV, or Human Papilloma Virus, (which manifests in the
form of genital warts, but is better known as a leading cause of cervical
cancer); HIV, Human Immunodeficiency Virus; Mycobacterium tuberculosis,
Helicobacter pylori, or H pylori, (which infects the intestinal tract); Hepatitis
B and C, (one deadly, one not); Salmonella; Pseudomanus and Aeroginosa, (diseases
usually afflicting burn victims); Flu Viruses and other common bacteria such
as, E. Coli and Kreuttzveld Jacobs Disease, or Mad Cow Disease. It is
frightening to contemplate, but it is true that any of these diseases can be
contracted through endoscopic procedures.
In Europe, when the populace learned about their dangers, a loud
cacophony ensued. A simple solution was exercised: a condom-like sheath was
applied to the invasive instrument. But here, in the U.S., the facts are
270,000 individuals were victims of cross-contamination in recent years.
Proponents of the status quo will argue that those are very tiny numbers
considering the 15-million individuals who had one of these examinations.
In Europe, when the populace learned about their dangers, a loud cacophony ensued. A simple solution was exercised: a condom-like sheath was applied to the invasive instrument. But here, in the U.S., the facts are 270,000 individuals were victims of cross-contamination in recent years. Proponents of the status quo will argue that those are very tiny numbers considering the 15-million individuals who had one of these examinations.
Vision Sciences, Inc., however does not agree. Motivated by a growing concern for patients' safety when they realized that even after two cleanings of an endoscope it still remained clogged with organic matter, they created the endosheath: an endoscope with disposable parts. Never again would one have to worry about cross-contamination. However, the availability of the endosheath is insignificant when compared to the number of procedures prescribed.
All of us want to stay healthy and guard against those microbes we know will end our lives prematurely. We deserve dutiful care, one comparable to the Hippocratic Oath that proclaims, "...abstaining from whatever is deleterious and mischievous."
Like our English brethren, we must make our voices heard. We deserve and must insist in sterile care, including and not exclusive to the washing of one's hands.
However, I began this article with a caution, and I shall end it so, as well. When balanced with the real threat of Cancer and its advancing certainty, the Colonoscopy remains the test of our time. Until the sheath or the new swallow this pill technique, gains momentum, our choice should still be to save our lives. It is the cost that concerns this writer.
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