Colonoscopy. That word makes a lot of people cringe. Particularly men. Getting a colonoscopy at an early age can detect early signs of colon cancer. Colon cancer is the third most common type of cancer in the United States. It is often identified, treated, and cured when caught before progressing into its later stages.
Colonoscopies allow doctors to examine the colon for indications of tumors, ulcers, and polyps. When polyps are found they can be removed before becoming cancerous. When signs of colon cancer are discovered in the early stages it allows for more successful and easier treatment.
The American Cancer Society recommends people start regular screening at age 45. Although the stool-based test can be yearly, a colonoscopy should be performed every 10 years. During a colonoscopy, a doctor examines the entire length of the colon and rectum with a colonoscope, a flexible tube with a light and miniature video camera on the end.
Although the ACS recommends getting a colonoscopy at age 45, people with an increased risk should be screened earlier.
You are considered at risk if:
· You have a family history of colon cancer.
· If you have had a prior case of colon or rectal cancer.
· You have a history of inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
If you are at risk due to family history then follow this guideline to schedule your first colonoscopy:
· If any member of your family has had any form of cancer begin screening at age 40 or 10 years prior to the youngest diagnosed case of cancer. If the family member was diagnosed at age 40, you should get your first screening at 30.
· An immediate family member (father, mother, sibling, child) discovered polyps or cancer then your screenings should begin at age 40 or 10 years prior to the youngest diagnosed case.
Cancer of any form is serious, but colon cancer is one of the most preventable. It is important that you take care of yourself and take annual physical and health screenings seriously. Please talk to your doctor and make sure they are aware of any health issues you are experiencing. You are your first line of defense.