For many of us, rushing to a surgical center or hospital to have a colonoscopy is not our first idea of what we would like to do that day. For many of us, it sounds embarrassing and painful.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that we begin having a colonoscopy at age 50 unless you have a family history of colon cancer or if your immediate family member was diagnosed at an early age with precancerous polyps. No matter your reason for needing a colonoscopy, it is a simple procedure, not surgery.
Colorectal cancer is cancer that begins in the colon or the rectum. It is the third most common cancer among both men and women in the United States.
What Is a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is the best screening test available for colorectal cancer. It is the only screening test that also prevents many colorectal cancers. Here are a few things you should know about this test:
- The day before you have a colonoscopy, you will be instructed on what you may or may not eat and drink. You will also need to take a prep to ensure your bowels are clean to be appropriately visualized by the camera on the colonoscope. On the day of the colonoscopy, you will receive medication to help you relax. Most people fall asleep and do not remember much about the test when they wake up.
- Your physican will insert a long thin, flexible tube into your colon through the rectum. The tube has a tiny video camera and light at the end that sends images to a video monitor.
- During a colonoscopy, your doctor examines the lining of your entire colon to check for polyps or tumors. If any polyps are found, they can be removed immediately.
What Are Some of the Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer?
A risk factor is anything that raises your chances of developing cancer. The following are some of the known risk factors for colorectal cancer. Talk with your doctor about your risk and how often you should be screened:
- Older age
- African American race
- A personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps
- Inflammatory intestinal conditions
- Inherited syndromes that increase colon cancer risk
- Family history of colon cancer
- Low-fiber, high-fat diet
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Radiation therapy for cancer
What are Some Possible Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?
Any of the following symptoms should be checked out by your doctor. Although they occur in people with colorectal cancer, they can also be caused by several other treatable conditions.
- A change in bowel habits that lasts more than a few weeks.
- A feeling of having to have a bowel movement that does not go away even after doing so.
- Rectal bleeding, dark stools, or blood in the stool.
- Stomach discomfort, including bloating or steady abdominal pain.
- Unexplained weakness or fatigue.
- Unexplained weight loss.
If you are of the recommended age, have symptoms, or a family history of colon cancer make an appointment by calling or visiting Dr. Snow’s website today.