This question is frequently asked by patients to their doctors. The answer is yes per the American Cancer Society, beginning at age 45 for those who are at average risk for colorectal cancer. Patients may be advised to be screened at younger ages dependent upon factors such as symptoms or hereditary conditions. Colonoscopy is an important diagnostic test for colorectal cancer, the second most common cause of cancer death in the United States when men and women are combined. Colonoscopy is a non-painful medical procedure in which a flexible fiber-optic instrument is inserted through the anus to examine the colon. During the exam, doctors look for conditions such as swollen and irritated tissues, polyps, or cancer. The Affordable Care Act requires both private insurers and Medicare to cover the cost of colorectal screening tests but there may be some stipulations. Regular screenings can lead to early intervention for colorectal cancer, which is key to saving lives.
During a colonoscopy procedure, doctors use a camera attached to an instrument to visually examine the lining of the colon to look for growths, inflammation, and sores. Questionable areas are biopsied. Polyps may be found during the procedure. Most people are unaware of polyps which is why screening is important. Though most polyps do not turn into cancer, certain types can. Thus, early intervention to identify and remove them before they become cancerous is important. A colonoscopy is also an effective tool to detect cancerous tissue. If left alone, cancerous tissue can spread. The test can detect other conditions as well. Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease, generally appears at the end of the small intestine and the start of the colon. Doctors will examine the lining of the intestine for inflammation and use biopsy to confirm the disease. Ulcerative colitis is another kind of inflammatory disease that can cause ulcers, sores, and swelling. Diverticulosis is a rather common condition, especially after age 40. It is caused by small pockets in the wall or lining of the intestines that can lead to medical issues. For most diseases and conditions, early medical intervention can save lives.
Patients who are nervous about getting a colonoscopy should talk to their doctor. Most likely, they will be reassured that the procedure is beneficial, safe, quick, and painless. Most patients will be asked to eat low-fiber foods three days before a colonoscopy. One day before, they will likely go on a clear-liquid diet. They will also be given a laxative to use at home to clear out the colon prior to the procedure as advised. It’s important to have someone drive the patient home following the procedure. They will generally be told to report early per pre-op requirements. The procedure itself can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, and the patient will be moderately or deeply sedated. A patient must also allow post-op recovery time. Never let fear of colonoscopy prevent you from getting it done as the benefits are vast. A patient’s hardest job is to pick out a good dream while undergoing the procedure.
Colonoscopy is a non-painful examination that can detect disease and ultimately reduce one’s risk of cancer if polyps are discovered and removed. Your doctor, particularly a gastroenterologist, is the best resource for medical information regarding this life-saving procedure. The general recommendation for follow-up for clean reports is generally 10 years, thus, many hospitals promote the “24 hours for 10 years” slogan and ask, “Is 24 hours of your time worth 10 years of good health?” However, some experts believe that there is a risk in waiting 10 years should polyps that can turn cancerous be missed. This is why it’s important to have a conversation with your doctor to determine how often is best for you. Early-stage colon cancer often does not present any symptoms. For this reason, a regular baseline screening as medically recommended is critical for the detection and prevention of cancer and to promote overall health and well-being.
This article is purely informational and is not intended as medical advice or as a medical resource.