Routine colonoscopies have become an integral part of preventative health care. Colon and rectal cancers are the third most common type of cancer occurring in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute. The most effective way to treat colon cancer, as with any disease, is to prevent it before it starts or catch it as early as possible. The best way to do this is through colonoscopy.
What is a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a medical procedure performed by a gastroenterologist in which a thin, flexible tube, about the width of a finger, is passed into the anus and through the colon to the other end where it joins the small intestine. This tube is called a colonoscope and has a camera, light, irrigation port, and space for medical instruments. While the scope is being inserted, the camera sends images back to a screen so the physician can examine the interior walls of the colon for signs of disease. Many colon cancers start as polyps (adenomas), which are small growths in the mucosal walls of the colon. Most polyps are benign, but may turn into cancer if left untreated. If your physician finds polyps during his examination, they can be removed with cauterization or a special wire tool that is controlled through the colonoscope.
Do I Need Anesthesia?
A colonoscopy does not require full surgical anesthesia, but conscious sedation is often used to make you feel relaxed should any pain occur. Some cramping or bloating may occur during or after the procedure, but the sedation given should keep you comfortable throughout. If polyps are found, their removal should cause no pain.
When Should I Have a Colonoscopy?
The American Cancer Society recommends that all adults over the age of 50 get a full colonoscopy every 10 years, and a sigmoid (lower) colonoscopy every five years. However, some factors can increase one’s risk of colon cancer, such as a family history of the disease, smoking, obesity, and bowel diseases. More information on these risk factors can be found on the American Cancer Societies’ website, http://cancer.org/ - if you are at a higher risk, you should follow the guidelines and recommendations of your physician for more frequent screening.
Colonoscopies have reduced the death rate from colorectal cancer by over 50%, according to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. To get more information or schedule a visit with your local gastrointestinal health professionals in Longmont, CO, call Front Range Gastroenterology Associates today at 303-776-6115.