Colonoscopy. The word alone has the power to instill a bit of fear in most people. Many of us don’t really understand what it is, but we know it involves some sort of a probe and a body part that we’d rather not mention. In reality, the test is very simple, it takes only a few minutes and it is in fact a proven lifesaver. You know what’s far worse than a colonoscopy? Cancer — a type of a cancer that occurs in roughly 1 in 20 middle-aged Americans. That’s right, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosis in the U.S. and it can be prevented. So yes, you should go in for that colonoscopy your doctor recommended. Keep reading to find out four major reasons you should get the screening.
You’re over 50
Colorectal cancer occurs much more frequently in individuals over the age of 50. People in this age group account for 90 percent of new cases of colorectal cancer and 95 percent of colon cancer deaths. Those are huge numbers! But, it’s estimated that routine colonoscopies — which should be performed at the age of 50 and every 10 years through the age of 75 — can cut instances of colorectal cancer by as much as 60 percent.
Also read: 5 Medical exams you need at 40
You have a family history
If you’re not yet 50, but have a family history of colorectal cancer, you should have a colonoscopy. This is especially important if an immediate family member was diagnosed before the age of 50. You should make sure your physician knows of this diagnosis and at what age it occurred, so that you are screened at the appropriate age.
You’re experiencing certain symptoms
Colorectal cancer may be asymptomatic in the early stages, so you shouldn’t wait until you have symptoms to have a colonoscopy. But, if you notice any of the following symptoms you should check with your doctor: anemia, abdominal pain, changes in bowel movements, bloody stool, weight loss and/or if you have inflammatory bowel disease.
It can prevent cancer
A colonoscopy allows doctors to view your colon and rectum up close, which gives them a nearly unparalleled opportunity to spot and address any potential issues. Polyps — growths on or in the body — are of particular concern since they can become cancerous over time, but they can actually be removed during a colonoscopy preventing the cancer from developing at all. Doctors can also remove tissue to be biopsied during the procedure, in a double-down effort for early-detection which also decreases the chance of terminal cancer.