Have you been told you need a colonoscopy based on a fecal blood test result? If so, a new study warns that delaying the diagnostic colonoscopy can be very hazardous to your health.

The Research

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, followed over 70,000 patients in California, ages 59 - 70. All the patients had a positive fecal blood test and were advised to schedule a diagnostic colonoscopy. Most, 74%, were seen within 3 months. Following the remaining patients, the researchers found that waiting 10 months nearly doubled the risk of having colon cancer and the risk of advanced malignancy nearly doubled. Those that waited more than a year doubled the risk of having any cancer and the advanced cancer risk tripled.

Preventative Care

The U.S. Preventative Service Task Force recommends a yearly fecal test for normal at risk people between the ages of 50 and 75 and a screening colonoscopy at age 50. High risk patients should be seen earlier and more frequently. It is important to follow your physician’s instructions if you have a family history of colon cancer, certain gastrointestinal diseases or have a genetic predisposition for cancer development. 

If, during a routine screening colonoscopy, the gastroenterologist does not find any polyps, the follow-up repeat test can be as many as 10 years out. When you add the advent of at home tests, it is more important than ever to educate patients on the importance of following through with a colonoscopy if a test shows blood in the stool. These fecal blood tests can be important tools in your overall health care plan, but they are designed to point you to the ultimate test - the colonoscopy. 

The doctors at GI Associates are specially trained to find and remove polyps during the procedure. These polyps are then biopsied by our pathologists. When found early, colon cancer is more than 90% curable; that is why the colonoscopy is the gold standard of both prevention and detection of colon cancer. If you have had a positive test result or if it is time for you to be screened, do not delay in making the appointment. We even make it easy for you with this online form.

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