A colonoscopy can lead to the detection and removal of polyps, some of which may progress to cancer if left to develop. Here’s how to know if you should consider scheduling a colonoscopy and three reasons to be happy about it.
1. You’re over age 50
While colorectal cancers can develop at any age, 90% of new cases and 95% of deaths from colon cancer occur in people 50 or older. The average age of diagnosis is 72, but incidence rates in younger adults are also on the rise. That means that if you’re over the age of 50 and you haven’t had a colonoscopy lately, you’d be wise to schedule one.
2. You’ve got a family history
People who have a first-degree relative (parent, sibling or child) who has colon cancer have 2-3 times the risk of developing colon cancer. If a close family member has been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, you’re a prime candidate for a colonoscopy.
3. You’re part of an at-risk population
African-American men and women have a 20% higher incidence rate for colon cancer and a mortality rate that’s 45% higher. Jews of Eastern European descent may also experience a higher incidence rate, and the mortality rate is higher for Native Americans and Alaskan Native individuals than the rest of the population.
If you fall in one of the above groups, you should consider getting a colonoscopy. While it’s certainly not an outrageously enjoyable experience, it’s also not that bad. Remember that:
1. It doesn't take a lot of time.
A colonoscopy only takes between 20 minutes to an hour from start to finish. Even if you add in waiting and consult time, plus the time it takes to get undressed and dressed again, the entire appointment will only take a few hours.
2. Your screening is good for 8 - 10 years
If no polyps are found, you're not at high risk for colon cancer, and don't exhibit any troubling GI symptoms, you won't have to get another colonoscopy for nearly a decade.
3. The procedure is painless.
While there is some prep work involved, you will be sedated for the colonoscopy itself. You might not even remember much of the procedure!
Colorectal cancer is the second-most common cause of cancer deaths in the US for men and women combined, but early screening can catch polyps and other abnormal tissue before they have a chance to become cancerous. Even if the doctor finds cancer, it can frequently be successfully treated. A study published in New England Journal of Medicine found colonoscopies can reduce the risk of dying from colon cancer by 53 percent.
Colon cancer often has no symptoms until its later stages. A colonoscopy gives you and your doctors a better chance at finding, removing or otherwise treating any cancerous growths before they progress.
To get a read on your digestive health, schedule a colonoscopy at Central Maine Medical Center. We make it our mission to provide comprehensive care that is high-quality, efficient, evidence-based, and patient and family-focused. Learn more at https://www.cmmc.org/cmmg-practice-details?practice_id=21