What Is A Colonoscopy And Why Do You Need One?
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer of both men and women in the United States. In 2008, nearly 53,000 lives were claimed by colorectal cancer and the trend hasn’t diminished.
That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urge regular screening and colonoscopies. If you are over 50, have inflammatory bowel disease, or a history of colon problems in your family, you should begin getting a colonoscopy at regular intervals.
What is a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is an examination of your large intestines and rectum by a gastroenterologist. The gastroenterologist checks the health of your colon by attaching a small video camera to a thin tube called a colonoscope, which measures between four and six feet long.
By examining your intestines, your gastroenterologist will be able to detect colon cancer, diagnose ulcers, and find polyps.
A complete colon cleanse is required prior to the colonoscopy, so you’ll need to drink a powdered solvent that flushes your colon.
Colon Cancer is Common
The number one reason you need to get a regular colonoscopy is the threat of colon cancer. Colon cancer kills more men and women every year than breast cancer, prostate cancer, and AIDS.
If you don’t catch it before it really takes hold, this form of cancer will cause your digestive system to fail, pollute your intestinal tract, and cause your colon to decay.
Nearly 150,000 people are expected to be diagnosed with colon cancer this year alone, and about 50,000 people die from it. You could be one of them—especially if you’re at high risk for cancer already.
However, if you do get a colonoscopy regularly, you can decrease your risk of colon cancer by upwards of 50 percent.
You May Be At High Risk
Everyone is at risk for colon cancer—even if they live a healthy lifestyle—but some adults carry an especial likelihood for developing colon cancer because of hereditary syndromes.
These particular gene mutations predispose people to develop multiple polyps along their digestive track, which puts them on the road to colon cancer.
These include syndromes like familial adenomatous polyposis, hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer syndrome, and MutY homolog polyposis.
Even if you don’t know about these hereditary conditions, however, you can still assess your risk based on family relationships and lifestyle factors.
People who have a relative that has been diagnosed with colon cancer are almost twice as likely as their peers to develop the illness. This is especially true if the disease was diagnosed before the age of 50.
Inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, obesity, smoking, high alcohol intake, and eating a diet high in fat are other risk factors that increase your chances of developing colon cancer.
Colon Cancer is Easy to Cure When Caught Early
As rampant as colon cancer is, however, it is easy to treat if it’s caught in the early stages. According to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, about 90 percent of cases diagnosed in the early stages can be cured.
Treating colon cancer is also easier when it’s caught early on. Colon cancer can usually be excised from the body by surgery alone, sparing you from rounds of radiation and chemotherapy that may or may not be effective.
Colonoscopies Are All-Encompassing
Colonoscopies are the most commonly recommended screening for colon cancer because of their all-encompassing nature. By using a colonoscope, your gastroenterologist will be able to view the whole length of your large intestine and look up, down, and across the length of your colon.
This form of screening is more preferable than procedures like sigmoidoscopy, which only covers about a third of your colon. With a sigmoidoscopy, you are at risk of tumors and polyps going undetected as about half of potentially lethal growths occur in the last two-thirds of the colon.
Sigmoidoscopies are cheaper than colonoscopies, but they are not as effective. Opt instead for the colonoscopy—your health is worth it.
Colonoscopies Are Widely Available
Because the CDC has placed such importance on colonoscopies, you should have no trouble procuring one.
The CDC’s Colorectal Cancer Control Program also provides funding to 25 states to make colonoscopies more affordable. If you’re in a low-income bracket, between 50 and 64, underinsured, or uninsured, there are also free or low-cost screenings available.