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Colonoscopies save lives

See your doctor about this test

If you had the opportunity to avoid the third-leading cause of cancer death in the United States, you would, wouldn’t you? Then, why is that that nearly one-third of American adults choose to forgo recommended screenings, putting them at even greater risk for developing late-stage colorectal cancer?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while the number of people who get regular colonoscopies has increased over the last decade, approximately one in three eligible adults between the ages of 50 and 75 are not up-to-date with colorectal cancer screenings because:

• They do not know they are supposed to get screened

• They do not realize their age puts them at risk for colorectal cancer

• They are embarrassed of the procedure

• They do not have health insurance

• They fear the test results will be positive

The truth is all men and women at normal risk for developing colorectal cancer should talk to their primary care provider about getting a colonoscopy. Read on to learn if this simple, 30-minute procedure is the next step in preventing colorectal cancer from affecting your health and well-being – it may just save your life.

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a non-surgical test that allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your large intestine using a thin flexible tube, called an endoscope. During a colonoscopy, an endoscope can be passed into the colon through the rectum to examine this area. This procedure may be used to evaluate stomach pain, ulcers, digestive tract bleeding, changes in bowel habits and polyps.

Why should I get a colonoscopy?

Studies show that screening is the No. 1 reason for half of the declines in the expected new cases and deaths from colorectal cancer. In fact, the New England Journal of Medicine reports colonoscopies cut cancer death risk by as much as 53 percent. The bottom line is getting screened for colorectal cancer is the easiest way for your doctor to either prevent or diagnose and treat the disease in its earliest, most treatable stages.

When should I get a colonoscopy?

Beginning at age 50 and continuing through age 75, all men and women with average risk are recommended to get a colonoscopy from their primary care provider every 10 years to locate and remove precancerous polyps before they turn into cancer. Those at higher risk for developing colorectal cancer will identify with one or more of the following risk factors and should speak with their doctor about earlier or more frequent screening:

• A personal or family history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps

• A personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease

• A known family history of hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome (familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer)

Are there other types of colorectal cancer screenings?

Getting a colonoscopy is not your only option for colorectal cancer screening. Other recommended screening tests include fecal occult blood tests (done at home once a year) and flexible sigmoidoscopy (done by a health care provider every five years, accompanied by fecal occult blood tests every three years). Talk to your doctor about your personal risk for developing colorectal cancer to best determine which exam is right for you.

Colorectal cancer screenings save lives. To learn if you are a candidate for colonoscopy, please consult your primary care physician, UnityPoint Clinic Gastroenterology or call UnityPoint Clinic Surgery at (515) 574-6865 today. A physician referral is required.

Darren Croo, MD

UnityPoint Clinic Surgery