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A Hospital in Canada Is Doing a Facebook Live of a Colonoscopy Today

"People will see the inside of his colon. This is high def TV."

by Kate Lunau
Mar 15 2017, 5:04pm

Dr. Barry Lumb. Image: Owen Thomas/Hamilton Health Sciences

Today you can take a trip through a patient's colon as he undergoes a colonoscopy, broadcast on Facebook Live from a hospital in Hamilton, Ontario. The effort is part of Colon Cancer Awareness Month, and aims to promote cancer screening.

Colon cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related death in both Canada and the US. In 2016, an estimated 9,300 Canadians died of the disease. Catching it early is key.

In the procedure, a scope will be inserted into the patient's rectum and travel the length of his colon, just under one metre. The instrument has a high-definition camera fixed to the tip to help the doctor identify any potentially problematic polyps (clumps of cells) that can then be removed on the spot. 

"People will see the inside of his colon, and I think they will be stunned at how vivid the image is," gastroenterologist Barry Lumb, who will be performing the colonoscopy, told me. "This is high def TV."

The video can be viewed here:

Lumb is physician-in-chief at Hamilton Health Sciences, where the procedure is being done. "We do about 12,000 colonoscopies at HHS a year," he said. He himself performs about a dozen of them a week, he told me.

This isn't the first time that social media has been used to share a medical procedure. Elsewhere, healthcare professionals have started uploading videos of surgeries to YouTube and Snapchat, but Lumb believes the colonoscopy at HHC is a first for Canada. "To my knowledge, this hasn't been done in Canada before [on Facebook Live]," he said.

His patient is a 65-year-old named Dan, who gets regular colonoscopies and has a family history of the disease, Lumb told me. (Cancer Care Ontario's screening recommendations vary by the patient's age and whether he or she has a family history.) Dan apparently was happy to have his procedure shown on Facebook Live. "He said yes in 10 seconds."

Before the procedure, a patient has to go through certain steps to empty out his or her colon (avoiding solid foods, for example) so that the colon will be "as clean as the palm of your hand," Lumb explained. The entire procedure only takes about 10 or 15 minutes, and patients can be administered a mild sedative and pain medication so it won't bother them.

Only about 40 percent of people in Ontario are following the current screening guidelines, Lumb told me. He's hoping that, by giving them a front-row seat—and a tour of a patient's colon—he and the HHS team will be able to show that colonoscopies aren't so "gory."

Early detection can help save lives. "If you catch it early, you can the patient's survival rate to 90 percent," Lumb said.

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