The statistics are alarming – colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed (after skin cancer and breast/prostate cancer), and it is the second leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the United States. This year, there will be an estimated 97,000 new cases of colon cancer.
The good news is that a colonoscopy can help prevent colon cancer or find it at an early stage. Early detection is the key to survival. In fact, if caught early, colorectal cancer has a 90-percent survival rate.
Let’s find out more about what a colonoscopy entails – and how it can save your life.
What Is a Colonoscopy?
Colorectal cancer – which is often referred to as colon cancer – begins in the colon or the rectum, both of which comprise the large intestine. A colonoscopy is the procedure that is used to screen for colorectal cancer.
During a colonoscopy, the patient is placed under general anesthesia or deep sedation. A thin, flexible, lighted fiber-optic tube with a video camera attached (called a colonoscope) is gently inserted into the rectum, and pictures are taken of the colon. The doctor will look for abnormal tissue growths (polyps), cancer, or other abnormalities.
A routine colonoscopy usually takes only around half an hour. If your doctor finds precancerous polyps, they will be removed during the colonoscopy, before they turn into cancer.
That is why a colonoscopy is considered the gold standard of screening for colorectal cancer – because it combines detection with treatment in a minimally invasive procedure.
Why Is a Colonoscopy So Important?
We cannot count on symptoms to give indicators of colon cancer, because symptoms usually don’t appear until the cancer has grown or spread. This is why it is so important to be tested for colon cancer as a preventive measure, before any symptoms show themselves.
The following factors are reasons why it is so important to get a colonoscopy:
- More than half of people who are diagnosed with colorectal cancer do not have a family history of the disease.
- Colorectal cancer rarely causes symptoms (especially in the early stages of the cancer).
- By having precancerous polyps removed during a colonoscopy, your chances of getting colorectal cancer are 70 percent lower.
- It is recommended that people start getting screened for colorectal cancer by age 50. If you have a family history of it or other predispositions, your doctor may ask you to have it done even sooner.
- For every year that you delay the initial screening, your risk of cancer increases twofold.
- If your doctor does not find any polyps during your first colonoscopy, the doctor will most likely recommend that you don’t need to be screened again for another 10 years.
Gastroenterologists in Carlisle
Carlisle Digestive Disease Associates encourages everyone over the age of 50 to get screened for colorectal cancer as a potentially life-saving preventive measure. Our board-certified and fellowship-trained gastroenterologists offer comprehensive services and the highest quality of care in South Central Pennsylvania.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please call our office at (717) 245-2228 or use our secure online appointment request form. We look forward to partnering with you in reaching and maintaining excellent digestive health.