A colonoscopy is an exam that is used to detect changes or irregularities in the large intestine (colon) and rectum. During this exam, a long, flexible tube called an endoscope is inserted into the rectum where a tiny video camera at the end of the scope allows the doctor to view the inside of the entire colon. If polyps or abnormal tissue is found, they can be removed through the scope during a colonoscopy.
According to the Center for Disease Control, colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the US. Each year about 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colon cancer; of those, more than 50,000 will die of the disease. Colon cancer is an equal opportunity killer, and strikes both men and women. This begs the question, when should you have a colonoscopy?
When (and How often) Should You Have a Colonoscopy?
Your doctor can be your best guide for when and how often you should have one, however, regardless of whether you are a man or woman, the CDC recommends that you should begin your screening for colorectal cancer soon after your 50th birthday. Then you should continue getting screened at regular intervals. But there are exceptions to this rule.
Are you at risk?
Some people may need to be tested earlier and more often than generally recommended if:
- They have an inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, then screening should begin 8 to 10 years after the initial diagnosis is made.
- You or a close relative (such as a parent, sibling or child) have been diagnosed with colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer, then you should begin screening 10 years earlier than the youngest diagnosis. (if the youngest diagnosis was 55 then begin screening at age 45) or age 40, whichever is earliest.
- You have a genetic syndrome such as FAP – familial adenomatous polyposis, or Lynch syndrome – hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer.
- Or you are African American (studies now show that African Americans should begin screening at around the age of 45)
With regular screenings, colon cancer is preventable. Regular screenings are designed to detect precancerous polyps that can be removed before they become cancerous. Colon cancer is best treated in the early stages, which can only be detected through regular screenings.
With careful preparation, the endoscopy can be beneficial to saving lives. If you, or a loved one needs an endoscopic procedure, or you would like to find out more information, please request an appointment online today. Our dedicated gastroenterologists are experts in GI care. Intercoastal Medical Group: dedicated to your well-being for life.