New colon cancer screening facility opens doors

New colon cancer screening facility opens doors

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - According to the latest statistics, one in every ten cancer-related deaths in Hawaii is caused by colon cancer. However, doctors say it is preventable if it is caught early. And a new facility could help make that happen.

Staff members, including eight general surgeons and gastroenterologists, joined in untying the maile lei and opening the doors to the Endoscopy Institute of Hawaii. The $5 million facility is the largest independent ambulatory surgical center dedicated to the health care of the digestive tract, and is in the new Hale Pawa'a building at the corner of South Beretania and Keeaumoku Streets.

"The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) estimates that half of Hawaii's residents who are eligible for screening have not had this life-saving procedure," said Dr. Mark Mugiishi, one of the institute's co-founders and physicians.

"It's about 900 people a year in Hawaii who get colon cancer," said Jackie Young, chief staff officer of the American Cancer Society in Hawaii. "If you think about it, if you fill up three planes, that's a lot of people."

"The overwhelming majority of colon cancer cases are actually diagnosed at a much later stage, where it's harder to treat, it's less cost-effective, and impacts the overall patient survival," said Dr. Racquel Bueno, another of the institute's co-founders and physicians.

The institute has three operating rooms and ten procedure rooms, and is capable of handling more than ten thousand procedures a year. Doctors say that will reduce the waiting times for those who need colon cancer screening in Hawaii.

"Patients would typically wait about six months to a year to have their screening colonoscopy," said institute co-founder Dr. Cedric Lorenzo. "We'll try to get it down to less than a month, hopefully, so patients can have this lifesaving procedure."

Physicians say you should be screened for colon cancer if you are 50 years of age or older -- or 40 if there's a history of colon cancer in your immediate family. Hawaii state law also mandates that health insurance covers colon cancer screening, so doctors said there are no excuses to do something that could save your life.

"If you think about all the colonoscopies that are done, and we identify a polyp in one out of four colonoscopies on average, that's a tremendous impact on society," said Dr. Bueno.

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