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  Phone : 610.375.0500

All Posts in Category: Patient Education

Birthday cake with "50" candle on top

When to have a colonoscopy

A Preventative Measure at Milestone Birthdays

As we age, our self-care regimen needs to grow along with us. Beginning at age 50, what can help keep us healthy is a steady diet of preventative testing to diagnose and treat emerging health concerns.

Among such health care concerns is colorectal cancer, one of the most common forms of cancers among men and women in the United States today. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer, not including skin cancers. In total, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 20. At the same time, colon cancer is one of the most preventable cancers through the use of regular colonoscopies.

Early Action is Key

Providing a suggested timeframe for screenings to detect polyps, the American Cancer Society recommends men and women at average risk for cancer receive colonoscopies every 10 years starting at age 50. Essentially, as a milestone birthday is celebrated starting at age 50, it can serve as a timely reminder to have a screening. Very generally speaking, the earlier screenings occur to detect the presence the potentially cancerous polyps, the better chances are to successfully treat the polyps by surgical removal. Of course, if symptoms such as bleeding or pain are experienced at any time it is important to see a qualified medical provider experienced in colon care as soon as possible.

What to Expect 

As mentioned in one of our previous posts Have questions about endoscopy?”, preparing for a colonoscopy requires patients to follow pre-operative preparation instructions provided by their surgeon prior to the brief surgical procedure. To maximize patient comfort, sedating medication is used during the procedure. Best of all, patients are typically discharged less than an hour after the procedure is performed.

If a biopsy is performed during the colonoscopy, patients of Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists can expect to receive test results within just a few days, if not sooner, as well as a thorough follow up discussion with their surgeon.

Where Will My Procedure Occur?

Dr. Joseph Levan, Dr. Thomas Beetel and Dr. Robert Howard perform colonoscopies at Surgical Institute of Reading, Reading Hospital and St. Joseph Medical Center, depending on patient preference, scheduling availability and insurance requirements.

To make an appointment to see Dr. Levan, Dr. Beetel or Dr. Howard, request an appointment online by CLICKING HERE.


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Have questions about endoscopy?

To help patients better understand endoscopy, Dr. Howard, Dr. Levan and Dr. Beetel (left to right) present the following information.

What is endoscopy?

Endoscopy is an umbrella term referring to the process of diagnosing gastrointestinal tract issues. Surgeons utilize an endoscope, which is a long, narrow, flexible operative instrument containing a very small video camera outfitted with a high-powered light to help detect abnormalities.

For gastrointestinal problems of the esophagus, stomach and the duodenum (first part of the small intestine), an upper GI endoscopy is performed to detect and diagnose ulcers, gastritis, polyps, causes of bleeding or pain, and cancer.

For problems related to the colon, such as inflammation, bleeding or pain, and for colon cancer screening, a lower GI endoscopy is performed. When the entire colon requires examination, the procedure is referred to as a colonoscopy. When a partial examination occurs, such as the rectum and the sigmoid colon (first part of the colon) only, the procedure is called a sigmoidoscopy.

What to expect

Endoscopic procedures require patients to follow pre-operative preparation instructions provided by their surgeon prior to surgery such as limiting food and drink intake a day or two before surgery as well as use of colon cleansing kits.  In most procedures, sedating medication is used to maximize patient comfort. A minimally invasive surgery, endoscopic procedures typically allow patients to be discharged less than an hour after the endoscopy is performed.

If a biopsy is performed during endoscopy, patients of Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists can expect to receive test results within just a few days of the procedure, if not sooner, as well as a thorough follow up discussion with their surgeon.

Where will my procedure occur?

Dr. Levan, Dr. Beetel and Dr. Howard perform endoscopic procedures at Surgical Institute of Reading, Reading Hospital and St. Joseph Medical Center, depending on patient preference, scheduling availability and insurance requirements.

If it has been recommended to you either by your primary care physician or other care provider that an endoscopy is warranted, rest assured Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists provides the expertise needed for a positive experience before, during and after surgery.  To make an appointment to see Dr. Joseph Levan, Dr. Thomas Beetel or Dr. Robert Howard, you can request an appointment online by CLICKING HERE.


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The Latest on Breast Cancer Awareness

Post written by Dr. Robert J. Howard, D.O., F.A.C.S.
Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists

October is “Breast Cancer Awareness” month and a good time to think about good breast health in general. Over the last 10 years there has been a significant increase in the amount of awareness in the general community. All you have to do is turn on the TV to see the pink spikes on NFL football players or watch the news reporting on one of the multiple runs or walks for the cure. These events coupled with some high profile celebrities discussing their own private battles with breast cancer have lead to more media coverage as well.

For the most part this has been very positive, however, there are still many misconceptions about breast care and breast cancer screening. In our office, we see many women come in with an “abnormal mammogram” and I am surprised how many are not aware that an abnormal mammogram DOES NOT necessarily mean you have breast cancer. In fact, less than 15% of women with an abnormal mammogram will be diagnosed with breast cancer. During a typical appointment we will review the mammogram images with our patients and present multiple options to make an accurate diagnosis in a minimally invasive manner.  Sometimes that may even include performing an ultrasound guided needle biopsy on the day of the first appointment.

Over the past ten years the treatment and diagnosis of breast cancer has improved significantly. With improved imaging we are able to diagnose smaller, early stage cancers and perform biopsies with a needle in a mostly painless manner. Often those biopsies can be performed during the initial consultation. With the advent of sentinel lymph node biopsy, we are now able to sample the lymph nodes with almost zero risk of a complication called lymphedema, or arm swelling which was very common and debilitating in the past. Improved radiation techniques mean less problems with skin irritation which was prominent in the past as well. Vast improvements in genetic testing and the implications of that testing allow us to make much more informed decisions about care and determine overall prognosis for the future.

There is still a long way to go, but significant progress has been made and the future is bright for continued improvements. As our knowledge of the genetic basis of breast cancer evolves, so do our chances of eliminating the disease completely. In the mean time, the best treatment is early detection. Monthly self breast exams and yearly mammograms when age appropriate will help identify most breast cancers. Then, evaluation by a physician with experience and knowledge of breast cancer is the key.  At Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists we take pride in our ability to present the latest information about breast cancer in an easy to understand manner.  Our job is to make sure our patients are informed so they have the ability to choose the treatment that makes them feel comfortable and confident. In conjunction with regional cancer centers, we provide the most advanced treatment options available. Hopefully you will never need our services, but if you do, you can rest assured you will be well informed and treated in a very caring and compassionate manner from diagnosis to cure.

– Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists –

If you have additional questions about breast cancer care would like to make an appointment for a consultation with Dr. Howard, you can request an appointment online by clicking here, or call our office at 610.375.0500.

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Welcome to Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists

Welcome to our new website!

Designed with you in mind, the new website offers information relating to your care options but also a new “Insights” blog on which we’ll share information and education we hope you’ll enjoy. Our blog features a comments section, so if you see a blog post you like please tell us about it. We’ll also offer information and updates on our Facebook page. Enjoy!

-Dr. Levan, Dr. Beetel and Dr. Howard

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What is Minimally Invasive Surgery

What is Minimally Invasive Surgery?

As the quality of health care has evolved over time, so has the very nature of surgery itself. Over the past thirty years, this component of the overall care equation has given rise to the development and regular use of minimally invasive surgery as a means of promoting patient-centered care. Compared to open surgery where large incisions are made, minimally invasive surgery utilizes small incisions through which surgical instruments are inserted and surgery performed.

How patients benefit

The benefits to patients of minimally invasive surgery are both immediate and long term. Immediate benefits resulting from the smaller keyhole incisions is less tissue trauma and procedures performed in a fraction of the time than with open surgery. Additionally, patients often leave the hospital the same day the procedure is performed.
After surgery, the long term benefits of minimally invasive procedures include faster recuperation, return to work and better cosmetic outcomes.

Types of minimally invasive surgery

Minimally invasive surgery falls into three categories: endoscopic, laparoscopic and robotic. Endoscopic surgery is utilized to diagnose upper and lower gastrointestinal (GI) issues. Laparoscopic surgery is used to treat issues of the abdomen. Robotic surgery is used to treat many common intra-abdominal issues.

The physicians at Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists provide endoscopic, laparoscopic and robotic minimally invasive surgery, and further specialize in excellent post-surgical cosmetic outcomes.

If you have a question about how you would benefit from minimally invasive surgery, requesting an appointment with one of our physicians is easy by clicking here.

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Medical Education

Are You An Informed Patient?

Gone are the days when there was no easy access to medical information to help patients self-educate and become informed on particular health topics. Since its inception nearly twenty years ago, the Internet has served an unprecedented role in providing knowledge and insight on countless topics. WebMD, anyone?

Additionally, here in Berks County there are numerous health fairs conducted throughout the year offering general information in a wide variety of topics to help patients stay informed on health care options.

At Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists, we encourage patients to educate themselves regarding their care options. This ideally begins before the first appointment so patients can refer to their own list of prepared questions when meeting with one of our physicians. One of the great benefits to this approach is the open dialogue occurring right from the beginning, resulting in a very productive consultation. An example of questions that are recommended to ask any health care provider can be found on our website’s Frequently Asked Questions page.

With patient education serving such a critical role in making personal health care decisions, it is no wonder there are so many online sources of medical information available today. It’s a good idea to explore a few different sites to gather views on a given topic then discuss your findings with your physician. By doing so, you’ll play an active role in making informed health care decisions best for you.

If you have a health concern for which you need a surgical consultation, you can request an appointment with Dr. Levan, Dr. Beetel or Dr. Howard by clicking here.

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