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Why get a colonoscopy? Simply because it can save your life

Posted on by Dale J Rosenberg, MD


If you could have a test that could prevent you from developing colon cancer, would you say no? Unfortunately, too many Americans age 50 and older, are doing exactly that. By ignoring recommendations for a colonoscopy, they are missing out on a life-saving opportunity.

Colon cancer is the third most common form of cancer in the United States and the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Approximately 140,000 new cases are diagnosed in this country every year and about 51,000 people die from the disease annually. Colon cancer screening, including colonoscopy, could have played a life-saving role in thousands of these deaths.

Colonoscopy saves lives

Clinical studies have documented that colonoscopy prevents death from colon cancer.

According to federal estimates, however, only 6 in 10 adults are up-to-date in following the screening recommendations. In general, you should start screening for colorectal cancer at age 50—earlier if you have a family history of the disease or signs that you may have a problem.

What is a colonoscopy?

During a colonoscopy, your doctor examines the inside of your large intestine by inserting a tube with a tiny camera into your rectum. You need to take strong laxatives the day before to clean out your intestine, but during the actual exam, you’ll most likely be sedated so you won’t feel a thing.

If precancerous polyps are spotted, they can be removed immediately. While not every polyp turns into cancer, nearly all colorectal cancers start out as adenomatous polyps.

Research has shown that removing precancerous polyps decreases the incidence and likelihood of dying from colorectal cancer. If cancer is present it can be detected at an earlier, more treatable stage. Colonoscopy saves lives—the most important statistic of any cancer screening.

Colon cancer is one of the few cancers that a screening test can prevent. But the exam only works if people use it.

Some people are simply embarrassed; others are deterred by the bowel preparation, which is often the toughest part. Cost is another factor if the test is not covered by your insurance plan.

Regardless of any misgivings people have about colonoscopy, everyone needs to understand the life-saving potential of this test. And unlike other cancer screenings, you only need a colonoscopy every 10 years if no polyps are detected.

Talk to your doctor about colonoscopy and whether it's time for you to have this important screening. Watch this short video for a lighthearted look at the importance of colonoscopy.

 | Regional GI

Dale J. Rosenberg, MD, is a physician with Regional GI, specializing in gastrointestinal disorders. He is a graduate of Thomas Jefferson Medical College and is board certified in internal medicine and gastroenterology.

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