St. Peter’s Health is opening a new endoscopy suite to help combat Montana’s second leading cause of cancer-related death.

With five dedicated rooms for endoscopies and colonoscopies and 10 beds for recovery, the new suite will cut down wait times for an important preventative screening measure. St. Peter’s currently performs 21 endoscopy procedures per day, and some 4,400 annually.

The new suite cost some $2.3 million to build, including medical equipment like endoscopes, monitors and other tools, with $100,000 of that amount coming from donations in the Helena community.

In 2016, Montana's Department of Public Health and Human Services said 315,000 Montanans ages 50-75 should be screened. Forty percent of those people have not been screened.

From 2009 to 2013, 490 Montanans were diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and 172 Montanans die from the disease each year.

For Montana, which placed 49th out of 50 states for colonoscopy screenings, that means an additional 2,000 screenings can be completed each year for people vulnerable to colorectal cancer and other diseases.

Dr. Emily Bubbers, the only board-certified colorectal surgeon in Montana, according to St. Peter’s, said there are many reasons why so few Montanans get screened.

“It’s a combination of education, access and it being a rural state,” Bubbers said. “It’s hard to drive 100 miles” after preparing for a colonoscopy, Bubbers said, because the preparation can be brutal on the stomach.

Bubbers also said the goal is to get 80 percent of the Montana population who should have an endoscopic exam screened by the end of 2018.

That goal should become more possible with the new suite, but as DPHHS says, the best test is the one that gets done.

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Reporter

Reporter at the Helena Independent Record.

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