- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 29, 2002

President Bush today will undergo a colonoscopy, a routine procedure to check for abnormal growths in the large intestine.
Because the scheduled procedure will require sedation, Mr. Bush said he will invoke the 25th Amendment of the Constitution for only the second time in history when he transfers presidential powers to Vice President Richard B. Cheney before Mr. Bush is anesthetized.
"I feel great. This is part of the annual physical so I just decided to do it at this time," said Mr. Bush, 55. "It fits into my schedule. No signs, no symptoms" of trouble, he told reporters late yesterday.
The president's doctor, Richard Tubb, said Mr. Bush is "completely asymptomatic," and that the procedure to be performed at Camp David will take about an hour.
This will be the president's third colonoscopy. His doctor, Richard Tubb, said his two previous procedures were in June 1998 and December 1999; both showed "two small adenomatous polyps," which were removed but not cancerous.
Doctors will examine his large intestine for abnormal growths and determine whether polyps, small, mushroom-shaped growths on the lining of the colon, detected in previous screenings have returned. The risk of cancer is related to the size of a polyp; the larger it grows, the greater the risk.
If new polyps are found today, they can be "lassoed" and removed by a wire-cutting "loop" fixture on the colonoscope itself, said Dr. Robert Burakoff, chief of gastroenterology at the Washington Hospital Center.
"The good news is that since the president had a colonoscopy two years ago; his chance of having cancer is almost nonexistent," Dr. Burakoff said.
He noted that a polyp usually takes five years to develop and up to 10 to become cancerous.
A colonoscopy is performed with a flexible tube containing an optical scope that allows the doctor to examine the entire length of the colon. The procedure is usually performed with the patient in a light, drug-induced sleep.
Dr. Tubb said the chosen anesthetic, which will be administered intravenously, has the generic name propofol. He said it was chosen because it is "ultrashort-acting," has a "very rapid onset" and a "very short half-life." A patient given propofol will fall asleep within 30 to 60 seconds and can be revived in two to four minutes, the doctor said.
White House counsel Al Gonzales said Section 3 of the 25th Amendment enacted in 1967, four years after President John F. Kennedy's assassination will be invoked for only the second time when Mr. Bush sends a signed letter to congressional leaders.
A second letter, also signed by Mr. Bush, will formally transfer powers back, he said.
The only other time Section 3 was invoked was July 13, 1985, when President Reagan underwent surgery for colon cancer.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the administration will announce that the powers of the presidency were transferred only after Mr. Bush recovers and takes back control.
Intestinal polyps occur most frequently in people over age 50; up to half of the population has them. But unless there is rectal bleeding, most people never know they have polyps.
This story is based in part on wire service reports.


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