According to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, every year 136,000 new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed in the United States and 50,000 die from colorectal cancer. The statistics of this disease are unsettling because a colonoscopy could save at least 30,000 people each year. This screening could literally be the difference between life and death. It could be the difference between a simple preventative step and a cancer diagnosis. But what if you’ve already had a colonoscopy and the results showed no polyps and no presence of cancer? While we celebrate the news, it does not mean that you’re done with colonoscopies forever.
My Colonoscopy was Clear, Now What?
The American Cancer Society recommends that adults schedule their first colonoscopy at the age of 45. That is, only if you do not have a family history of polyps or colorectal cancer. In that case, your doctor will encourage you to be screened at an earlier age. But when your colonoscopy reveals that your intestine is clear of polyps and cancer, are you free from future screenings? The short answer is no. Do you have to schedule a colonoscopy on a yearly basis? Again, the answer is no. A research team from Kaiser Permanente in Northern California discovered that adults between the ages of 50 and 75 had a reduced risk of developing and dying from colorectal cancer when there was a gap of 10 years between colonoscopy screenings. In fact, those who participated in the study had a clear colonoscopy and then waited 10 years before their next screening. The study revealed that participants had a 46% lower chance of developing colorectal cancer and an 88% reduced risk of dying from colorectal cancer.
What Happens During a Colonoscopy?
Prior to your scheduled colonoscopy, you will be directed to “prep” your colon using one of several recommended prep types. A good prep ensures a good procedure. At GI Associates & Endoscopy Center, we even have a non-oral prep option called HyGleaCare that many of our patients prefer. On the day of your colonoscopy, you’ll come into our office and we’ll put you under mild sedation during the procedure. A colonoscopy only takes about 30 to 60 minutes and you won’t remember any of it. Your doctor will insert a thin, flexible tube with a lighted camera at the end through your rectum and into your colon. The scope will detect any polyps—precancerous growths in the tissue lining—and remove them immediately. This is the most accurate and effective way to prevent cancer.
Polyps that remain in the colon do not have any symptoms and will eventually develop into cancer and spread to other organs. A colonoscopy will also detect the presence of cancer at an early and completely treatable stage. This fast, painless procedure could truly be life-saving and should not be avoided. After the procedure, your doctor will discuss the findings with you and you and your driver will be on your way home. It really is that easy.
How Can I Schedule a Colonoscopy?
If you are at least 50 years old, or have a family history of polyps or colorectal cancer, contact us at GI Associates & Endoscopy Center today. We have three convenient locations in Mississippi. You can visit our website for more information about colonoscopies and make an appointment. Do not hesitate to call us with questions or concerns. Don’t wait until you have symptoms of GI problems because it may be too late. The sooner you come in to see us, the greater your chances of preventing colorectal cancer. If you had a colonoscopy with clear results 10 years ago, it’s time for another one.