For many people, the thought of getting a colonoscopy brings to mind an uncomfortable procedure that they would rather avoid. But, did you know that a colonoscopy can save your life? Colonoscopies are the standard screening method for colorectal (colon) cancer, the third-most common form of cancer among men and women.
Our team of providers at Monarque Health & Wellness, here in Ashland, Oregon, want to emphasize the importance of preventive health care. We offer a number of routine screening tests, including colonoscopies, to check on your health — and catch any diseases or illnesses you may have early on.
That’s why we’ve put together this blog to explain more about colonoscopies,to explore what they’re for, why they’re important, and who should get them.
What you need to know about colonoscopies
Your colon, or large intestine, is located in your abdomen. As you might imagine, it’s difficult to notice any problems in your colon until you start feeling serious pain or discomfort, which may mean that a disease like cancer has long taken a toll on the area.
The purpose of a colonoscopy is to look for any changes or abnormal growths in your colon, so it can be treated early on.
Before a colonoscopy, you typically spend the previous day on a liquid diet of light-colored or clear beverages, and later in the day, you take a laxative to clear out your colon. This makes it easier for your provider to check for issues.
During the procedure, a long, thin tube with a light at the end, called a colonoscope, is inserted into your rectum and through the length of your colon. Using this tool, your provider looks for abnormal tissue growth and precancerous polyps, which can also be removed during the colonoscopy.
Why a colonoscopy can be life-saving
The main goal of a colonoscopy is to detect any signs of colorectal cancer early on. Although there are other methods of screening for colorectal cancer, a colonoscopy gives your provider the most detailed and complete look at your colon. And when it comes to cancer, early detection gives you the best chance of beating the cancer for good.
One study, which examined patients in the Veterans Affair (VA) system from 1997-2010, found that colonoscopies were associated with a 61% reduction in mortality rate for colorectal cancer.
By taking the time to do your colonoscopy now, you can help prevent cancer from entering your life. Your provider has the chance to look for precancerous polyps and remove them before they turn into cancer.
Who should get a colonoscopy?
The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all adults 50-75 years old get screened for colorectal cancer. If your provider does not notice any abnormalities during your colonoscopy and you aren’t at increased risk of developing colorectal cancer, you might not need another colonoscopy for 10 years.
Certain groups are at higher risk for colorectal cancer, including those with:
- Older age (90% of cases happen to people ages 50 and older)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (including ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
- Family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
- Genetic syndrome that makes you prone to polyps
In addition, some lifestyle choices may also make you more vulnerable to developing colorectal cancer. These include:
- Diet low in fruit and vegetables
- Low-fiber and high-fat diet, particularly with processed meats
- Lack of exercise
- Overweight or obesity
- Smoking and tobacco use
If you’re over 50 or at increased risk of developing colorectal cancer, don’t delay your colonoscopy. Contact our Ashland, Oregon, office today by calling 541-326-4777, booking an appointment online, or sending the team a message here on our website to get the process started.