10 Reasons to Schedule Your Colonoscopy Today
By Keith Meslin, MD, Virtua Colorectal Surgeon
If you’ve been afraid or embarrassed to have a colonoscopy, here are 10 reasons why you should reconsider scheduling this life-saving screening.
Not enough people are screened for colorectal cancer. About one in three Americans who should be tested for colorectal cancer have never been screened. Colonoscopies are recommended for:
- Everyone age 45 and older.
- Younger people who have had a first-degree relative with onset of colorectal cancer at or before age 50. In these cases, the screening should take place at the age of onset for that relative minus 10 years. So, if your father developed colorectal cancer at age 45, you should start screening at age 35. If the family member was older than age 50, then you should have your first colonoscopy at age 40.
- You can have colorectal cancer and not have any symptoms. A sudden and consistent change in bowel movements, unexplained anemia, as well as rectal pain and bleeding, are the most common symptoms, but some people won't notice any changes until cancer is in a later stage.
- Screening is important for various types of cancer, but especially colorectal cancer. During the screening, doctors can find and remove early polyps long before they become cancerous tumors. In fact, a small polyp could take five to 10 years to turn cancerous. This is what makes colorectal cancer extremely preventable—and preventive screening extremely important.
- As with all cancers, the sooner colorectal cancer is diagnosed, the better the chances a person can live a longer life, with a better quality of life.
- As with many other serious health conditions, people appear to be at a greater risk of developing colorectal cancer if they’re obese, eat a diet high in red or processed meats, consume too much alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or don't exercise regularly.
- Even in its later stages, colorectal cancer is easier to treat than it was in decades past because of advances in surgical techniques and new chemotherapy agents.
In both men and women, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer. About one in 20 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer at some point in their lives.
- For reasons that aren’t fully understood, men are more than likely than women to be diagnosed with and die from colorectal cancer. This does not mean women should be any less concerned about their risk, however.
For reasons that aren’t fully understood, African Americans have the highest colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates of all racial groups in the U.S.
- A colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure that’s performed while you’re under sedation so there’s no discomfort. There are other studies available (CT colonography and stool sample tests) but these don’t definitively rule out any growths in the colon and often still require a colonoscopy if any abnormality is found.
Don’t put off this life-saving screening. To schedule your colonoscopy today, call 888-847-8823.
Updated February 18, 2021