We recognize that not everyone is going to get excited about a colonoscopy. After all, the general description of the exam doesn’t sound very appealing. But here at GI Associates, a colonoscopy is one life-saving exam that we can really get excited about. Here are four things we think you should know about them.
1. They’re Not That Big Of A Deal
A colonoscopy is a relatively quick exam. We recommend fasting prior to the exam, and limiting your diet to only liquids. The prep prescribed to empty the colon is tolerated well by most people. You can discuss your options with a member of our team prior to having your exam. The colonoscopy only takes about 30 minutes to complete, and you’ll be able to relax or sleep. Once it’s over, you’ll be back home that afternoon.
2. Start Talking To Your Doctor About Colonoscopies Early On
Current recommendations for when to start having regular colonoscopies are that, beginning at age 50, you should start having a colonoscopy once every 10 years. However, The American Cancer Society recently amended their recommendation to begin screening at age 45. This change reflects the continued rise in colon cancers found in younger patients. This is the case for patients of average to low risk who are in otherwise good health, especially in regards to gastrointestinal health. But don’t assume you fall into that category - you should talk to your doctor about it. Mention family history of the disease, voice any concerns you might be having, and discuss your options. We might recommend you have one earlier than age 50. It is important to note that each patient should be aware of their individual insurance coverage. Insurance companies have not yet adjusted to the new age recommendations.
3. You Might Not Fall Into A Low Or Average Risk Category
Even though you might be the picture of good health, that doesn’t eliminate you from the high-risk category when it comes to colorectal cancer. There are several high-risk categories you may fall into. Some of these factors include a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer, a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps. In addition to those more obvious categories, you’re also at a higher risk if you are African American. When it comes to lifestyle choices, people with diets high in red and processed meats are at a higher risk, as well as those who smoke, drink heavily, or have a sedentary lifestyle.
4. Colonoscopies Are Super Important
Colonoscopies are the number one tool in our fight against colon cancer. Colorectal cancer is a slowly developing disease, which means if it is caught in its early stage, it is significantly easier to treat. In addition to that, it often doesn’t even show symptoms until it’s really advanced, meaning that once you suspect you might have it, it might be beyond treatment. While conducting the exam, our doctors look for the presence of polyps in the digestive tract, removing them and testing them. If your test is clean, you don’t have to come back for another ten years. If we see something suspicious, it might be more frequent than that, but it will enable us to monitor your condition and help you before it progresses.
If you’re already 50 or are getting close, it’s time to make an appointment and discuss your need for this life-saving exam. If you fall into one of the above-mentioned risk categories, don’t wait until you’re 50. Don’t let a little-perceived discomfort get in the way of you and proper health screening.