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Colon Cancer Awareness Month: Understanding Your Colonoscopy

March 8, 2024

Have you had your colonoscopy? If you’re 45 or older, you’ve probably heard this question from someone you know – a doctor, a family member, or a health-conscious friend. More than 50,000 people die from colon cancer each year in the United States, and the disease may not have early symptoms. That’s why most people should talk with their provider about a colonoscopy once they reach the age of 45.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Even if your first colonoscopy is decades away, it’s important to know what to expect from this potentially lifesaving screening. Here’s what you need to know about your colonoscopy:

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a cancer screening in which your doctor uses a flexible scope to examine the inside of your rectum for colon cancer. While other colorectal screenings might look for evidence of cancer in your blood or stool, a colonoscopy allows your provider to physically see inside your large intestine, noticing abnormalities that might otherwise be invisible. During a colonoscopy, your provider can remove any precancerous tissue they find.

Why is a colonoscopy important?

About 1 in 23 men and 1 in 26 women will develop colorectal cancer at some point in their life. Your odds may vary based on your other risk factors, such as your diet, level of physical activity, and family history of cancer. Because the cancer is relatively common, and because it can be deadly if not detected early, screening for colorectal cancer is an important part of managing your health. A colonoscopy is the most reliable form of colorectal cancer screening and prevention, which is why it is so highly recommended. Once you have your colonoscopy, you’re unlikely to need one for another ten years, though your doctor may discuss a more frequent schedule based on your genetic risk.

What should you expect from your colonoscopy?

Many patients worry that preparing for a colonoscopy will be difficult or uncomfortable, but recent advances in medication have made the process much more palatable. Prior to your colonoscopy, your doctor will put you on a special diet for roughly 24 hours and give you a laxative medicine to drink. This helps clean out your bowels, so that your doctor’s view won’t be obstructed.

Before the procedure, you will be given a sedative to help you relax and to prevent any discomfort. Your doctor will insert a thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope into your rectum, and will use it to look for small growths called polyps. Polyps are not cancer, but if left untreated they may develop into cancer. Your doctor will remove any polyps, and may also take samples of any abnormal tissue for later testing.

After your colonoscopy, you will still feel groggy from your medication. Arrange for a friend or family member to pick you up from the hospital, as you won’t be able to drive.

You may feel anxious about scheduling your colonoscopy, but the procedure can help you stay healthy and give you greater peace of mind. If you are 45 or older and have not yet had your colonoscopy, now is the time to talk to your primary care provider about your risk for colon cancer and ask if a colonoscopy is right for you.

If you would like to speak to a provider about scheduling a colonoscopy, Spring View Medical Group can help. Visit the “Find a Doctor” tab on our website to schedule an appointment today.



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