Colonoscopy isn't the most pleasant screening procedure, but it isn't that bad after all. Over the years, the prep procedure has improved immensely, as the cleansing agents have become more palatable and effective. As long as the procedure is conducted by a qualified gastroenterologist, it should be safe and painless.
Besides, undergoing the screening is essential as it reduces your risk of colorectal cancer significantly. Colorectal cancer is the United States' third most common cancer. It's also the number two cause of related deaths.
According to the American Cancer Society, the prevalence of colorectal cancer is about 4.3% and 4% for men and women, respectively. Generally, the risk increases as one gets older. Hence, they recommend you start screening once you reach the age of 45.
However, recent trends indicate a rise in colorectal cancer among younger adults, i.e., those in their 20s and 30s. Unfortunately, the early colon cancer stage is not symptomatic; hence it may be missed at pre and early stages. It's essential to schedule a colonoscopy if you experience symptoms. These may include; prolonged abdominal discomfort, blood in the stool, change in bowel movement, or if you feel as if your bowel hasn't emptied completely.
Again, if there's a history of colon cancer in your family, you should consider the screening much earlier, at around 40. If you have a family member with colon cancer, speak to your primary care physician about the age you should be screened as you may be more at risk.
In addition to preventing and detecting cancer, colonoscopy helps diagnose other gastrointestinal conditions such as colitis and diverticulosis. In short, the benefits of performing the procedure outweigh the reservations by far.
Unconvinced? Here are five reasons why a colonoscopy is a worthwhile procedure.
1. It's Painless and Quick
Essentially, colonoscopy involves inserting a long, flexible tube, the width of a finger, through the anus. The tube usually has an HD camera that examines the rectum and colon lining for polyps. These are small lesions (growths) that form inside the intestinal walls.
Generally, polyps are noncancerous but left to develop, they can become malignant through genetic mutations. This normally takes about five to ten years.
Prepping for the procedure involves taking a laxative that helps cleanse the intestine. This is done a day before, usually in the evening. Then in the morning, you take another shot of the laxative for a final cleanse.
During the actual procedure, anesthesia is administered, which helps you relax, and the screening is complete in less than 30 minutes. So, it's pretty much a painless and quick process that shouldn't take much of your time.
Even if polyps are detected, removal is done during the colonoscopy. Though you may experience minor side effects such as bloating and cramps, these usually disappear within 24 hours. Unless the polyps are large, recovery is pretty quick. But even with significant polypectomy (removal of polyps), you should recover fully within a couple of weeks.
2. It Can Save Your Life
Anyone can develop colon cancer. However, unlike other cancers, colon cancer is preventable. This is possible if the polyps are detected and removed before they become cancerous. A colonoscopy helps detect any of these growths on the colon, which is then removed.
As early colon cancer is not symptomatic, colonoscopy is the only sure bet for arresting the disease before it starts or progresses. A study indicates that removing polyps reduces the chance of colorectal cancer-caused death by 53%. Besides, it helps diagnose other gastrointestinal conditions, whose presence increases cancer risk.
According to the National Cancer Institute, the risk of developing polyps in people aged above 50 is around 40%. Though the polyps are noncancerous, 10% of them become cancerous if unremoved.
3. It's Not a Frequent Requirement
Unlike many other cancers, screening for colon cancer is not an annual requirement. This is because polyps take a long time, usually five to ten years, to become malignant. Unless polyps are detected and removed in your initial screening, you're not due for another one until ten more years.
Screening is recommended starting at 45 or 40 if there's a history of colorectal cancer in your family. Below this age, your risk is pretty low unless you have gastrointestinal conditions such as Crohn's disease and colitis or complications like rectal bleeding, prolonged abdominal discomfort, and bowel movement changes.
Once you reach 75, you may skip colonoscopy unless you want to or you have had polyps removed in your previous screenings. But above 85, colorectal cancer examination is not necessary, according to the American Cancer Society.
4. It's Safe
Worried about complications? You need not. Actually, the risk of developing colorectal cancer is higher if you skip screening than the danger of having complications following examination.
Even if polyps are detected during the procedure necessitating removal, the process is non-invasive and safe. And as indicated, getting complications is rare.
5. It's Accurate
Generally, colonoscopy has high accuracy in detecting cancerous growths. For this reason, it's considered the gold standard colorectal cancer screening tool. The laxatives administered to prep you for the procedure are effective in cleansing the colon. This helps give the physician a clear view of the linings, making spotting any present polyps pretty easy.
Let GI Associates in Wisconsin Help Put Your Health in Your Hands
Myths aside, colonoscopy is a life-saving procedure that helps stop cancer. With colorectal cancer being the third most common cancer in the United States, regular screening, especially once you reach midlife, is essential. Since the disease has also started affecting younger adults, you should consider screening if you have persistent gastrointestinal issues we have mentioned.
With early detection and removal of polyps, you can reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer by over 50%. And you don't have to be terrified about the procedure because it's safe, non-invasive, quick, and painless.
In a nutshell, colonoscopy enhances the quality of your life by arresting potentially troublesome gastrointestinal issues and consequently saving your life. Ready for the screening? Schedule your appointment today at one of our many locations all over Wisconsin.