By Dr. Maria Simbra

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Avoiding surgery and getting the same or better results — that’s the goal of a new approach to removing small tumors from the intestines.

Overdue for a first colonoscopy, Arthur Meyers of West Mifflin gave in to his doctor’s recommendations.

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“Since he said I should get one, I said OK,” Meyers said.

His doctor found and removed several polyps, but left behind was a flat growth about 2 inches long, suspicious for cancer. The team decided to go after it through another colonoscopy.

“Oh, that’s fun. I had to do it twice in a month,” Meyers said. “The prep work is very tough to do … The option was to have surgery done if this did not work.”

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A decade ago, doctors would have done surgery to open up the belly and take out a section of intestine to get rid of small tumors. Now, there’s another approach that’s gaining used in Pittsburgh and around the country.

“For early cancers that are still confined to the lining of the colon, most of these can be removed through the scope as well,” said Dr. Bridger Clarke with South Hills Gastroenterology.

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For the patient, it’s the same as having a colonoscopy. But while the doctors are inside, they use instruments at the end of the scope to cut out the tumor, and they close the area with tiny clips, similar to staples.

“There’s a higher risk of some issues afterwards, like bleeding, but for the most part, that still remains quite rare,” Clarke said.

It takes a little longer and costs a little more than a colonoscopy, but the patient goes home the same day, and the overall risk of complications is lower than with open surgery.

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A follow-up colonoscopy is done several months later to make sure all abnormal tissue was completely removed, and if a person would still need surgery, having had this procedure would not interfere with that.

Success rate, meaning no recurrence on follow-up colonoscopy, is 90 to 95 percent.

In a few months, Meyers will be checked for any return of pre-cancerous areas, as doctors did not find any outright cancer. But he isn’t worried.

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“The smile on his face that we got it, that was the best part,” Meyers said. “Because it put a smile on my face, I said, good. We’re in good shape.”