More than 600 colonoscopies have been performed at Rocky Mountain House Health Centre since October with new state-of-the art endoscopy equipment.
The scopes and camera diagnostic equipment allow the entire colon to be screened for colorectal cancer and other bowel disease. Previous equipment only enabled doctors to examine the stomach and lower larger bowel.
New gastroscopes were also purchased to view the esophagus and stomach for ulcers and other illnesses.
Site manager Shirley Hope said the new equipment delivers a better image and it means residents no longer have to go the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre to access the equipment.
She said travelling to Red Deer, particularly for disadvantaged residents on reserves west of Rocky, can certainly be one of the barriers to screening.
“We’re just happy to be able to offer that service here in Rocky Mountain House and are anxious to keep the program vibrant and available,” Hope said.
Screening for colon cancer is generally done for people over 50 with a positive stool test or those with a family history of bowel cancer. Urgent exams are also available for people whose symptoms indicate a health problem.
“Either way, we’re catching lots of disease.”
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Alberta.
Rocky Mountain House Health Care Donations Committee raised $175,000 to purchase the endoscopy equipment.
Teresa Smith, 57, of Rocky, had a colonoscopy last October after experiencing a period of rectal bleeding in September.
“I didn’t want to go, but I promised my daughter I would go to the doctor to check it out,” Smith said.
She was soon diagnosed with cancer and had surgery in Red Deer.
Now she’s cancer-free.
“I was very lucky to have early detection and I want other people to have the same opportunity.”
Smith said she probably would have put the test off if she had to go to Red Deer just because of the inconvenience of travelling. She always had good health and wasn’t experiencing any discomfort.
“I always associated pain with illness. But in this case, there was no pain.”
The Rocky optician hopes others will learn from her diagnosis.
“It can happen to all of us and a lot of time it’s when we least we expect,” Smith said.