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Don’t put it off — get a colonoscopy

In the United States, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women. It’s expected to cause about 53,200 deaths during 2020. Yet, nearly one-third of American adults choose to forgo recommended screenings, putting them at even greater risk for developing late-stage colorectal cancer.

Don’t be a statistic. A simple, 30-minute procedure is the next step in preventing colorectal cancer from affecting your health and well-being.

While it’s OK to have hesitations getting a colonoscopy, it’s nothing to be feared. 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. Additionally, a colonoscopy is the easiest way for your doctor to either prevent or diagnose colon cancer and treat the disease in its earliest, most treatable stages.

Routine testing is recommended 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. Your doctor may recommend earlier or more frequent testing if you have a higher risk. Those at higher risk for developing colon 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)

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.

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. If you are 50 years or older, don’t put it off any longer. Call your primary care doctor, UnityPoint Clinic Gastroenterology or UnityPoint Clinic Surgery at (515) 574-6865 to schedule a colonoscopy. A physician referral is required.

Darren Croo, MD, is a physician with UnityPoint Health — Clinic Surgery.

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