Is it time to get a colonoscopy?

You may have heard about the importance of getting a colonoscopy in the media or through family or friends, but perhaps you don’t know too much about the procedure. Is it scary? Unpleasant? Are there any risks involved?

Colonoscopies can be misunderstood, but the benefits far outweigh any potential doubts one may have about the procedure. Getting a colonoscopy to screen for colorectal cancer is of prime importance for all adults, yet many people still don’t see a gastroenterologist regularly for screenings. This screening — which typically takes no more than 30 minutes – is not only easier than you think but can actually save your life.

What is a colonoscopy? 

A colonoscopy is a medical procedure that involves examining the inner lining of the large intestine (aka the colon) using a flexible tube with a camera and a light attached. You will be put under conscious sedation while undergoing the procedure, so you’ll likely not remember any part of the process.

This procedure allows your doctor to examine the lining of the intestines to look for polyps, bleeds, ulcers, or other issues you may be dealing with. Moreover, if any polyps are found, they can be removed during the procedure.

Why do I need a colonoscopy? 

Unsure if you should finally get a colonoscopy? Here are the main reasons to undergo the procedure:

Screening for Colon Cancer

The primary reason for getting a colonoscopy is to screen for colon cancer. Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. A colonoscopy is therefore recommended for individuals who are 50 years old or older, as your risk increases thereafter.

A colonoscopy is considered the gold standard for colon cancer since it allows the doctor to detect and remove precancerous polyps which can develop into cancer if left untreated.

You Have a Family History of Colon Cancer 

If you have a history of colorectal cancer in your family, your doctor may recommend you get a colonoscopy at an earlier age and more frequently, considering the increased risk of developing the disease.

You Have a History of Polyps or Colon Cancer

If you’ve previously had polyps or colon cancer, your doctor will recommend you get a routine screening to check for any possible new polyps or signs of cancer recurrence. Moreover, if individuals have had polyps removed in the past, regular colonoscopies may be recommended to monitor any potential new growths.

Persistent Gastrointestinal symptoms

If you are experiencing continual gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, changes in bowel movements, or unexplained weight loss, your doctor might recommend a colonoscopy to get things checked out. Since these symptoms could be a sign of various conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (or Crohn’s disease), diverticulitis, or colon cancer, a colonoscopy can help your doctor diagnose the underlying cause of your symptoms and provide the appropriate treatment.

Anemia or Blood in Stool 

 If you are experiencing anemia or blood in your stool, your doctor may recommend a colonoscopy as either could be a sign of colon cancer or other gastrointestinal conditions. A colonoscopy can help your doctor identify the source of the issue and provide appropriate treatment.

How often do I need to get a colonoscopy? 

If the results of your colonoscopy are normal, you probably won’t need another one for about 10 years. If any of the aforementioned reasons apply to you, however, and if you are 50 years of age or older, you may want to consider getting regular screenings.

Remember: early detection and treatment can save lives. Talk to your doctor today to make an appointment for a colonoscopy.