The Importance of Regular Colonoscopies
Colorectal cancer (informally referred to as ‘colon cancer’) is now the third most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the US. This cancer almost always starts as polyps, which are precancerous, abnormal growths in the colon or rectum.
What is a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a screening test performed by a doctor using a thin, flexible tube with a camera to examine your large intestine (colon). A sedative or painkiller makes the patient relaxed, drowsy, and comfortable. The procedure typically takes 30-60 minutes. Preparation should begin about 48 hours before your appointment.
Why Get a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy can remove any precancerous polyps before they turn into cancer, and can also find colorectal cancer in its earlier stages, when treatment has the best chance to be successful. The colonoscopy is the most thorough colon cancer screening method available.
Colonoscopy can also be used to help diagnose the cause of abdominal pain and detect colitis, diverticulitis , and bleeding lesions.
Recommended Screenings for Average-Risk Patients
The American Cancer Society recommends that people with average risk of colorectal cancer being screenings at age 45. Screening options include stool-based tests and colonoscopies.
Of course, your doctor might recommend a colonoscopy before age 45 if you are experiencing the symptoms of any number of colon disorders or have a strong family history.
Are You High Risk?
If you have any of the signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Symptoms include blood in the stool, digestive issues, and unexplained weight loss. Early stages of colorectal cancer often show little or no signs, so it’s critical to be tested even if you aren’t exhibiting symptoms.
Patients identified as having a higher risk for developing colorectal cancer will want to discuss a customized screening program with their provider. You may be at a higher risk if you or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer; if you have an inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis; or if you have certain genetic syndromes.
Whether your risk of colorectal cancer is average or higher than average, it’s important to discuss with your doctor when you should schedule your first—or next—colonoscopy. Muskegon Surgical Associates offers a variety of endoscopic procedures, including colonoscopy. Contact us or call 231-739-9461 for more.