Reducing Risk for Colorectal Cancer with Routine Colonoscopy Screenings
Colorectal cancer is the fourth most diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death, with 1 in 25 people in the United States developing colorectal cancer at some point in their lifetime.
One of the most effective ways to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer is to get routine screenings. The American Cancer Society recommends that you should begin screening for colorectal cancer starting at age 45 or earlier if your family history suggests it. There are a variety of screening tests for colorectal cancer. A colonoscopy is the most effective way to screen for colorectal cancer and is the only screening that can check for pre-cancerous polyps, or abnormal growths, through the entire digestive tract.
Many people are nervous about having a colonoscopy performed however, there are minimal risks, and having routine colonoscopy screenings could save your life.
What is a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a routine procedure that allows your doctor to look at the inside of your colon with a small, flexible tube called a colonoscope. The colonoscope has a light and camera on it and can examine tissue in your large intestine, looking for swelling, inflammation, and pre-cancerous polyps, known as adenomas.
Colonoscopies are outpatient procedures and are performed with mild sedation. They usually last around 30-60 minutes. When scheduling your colonoscopy, you should plan on spending 2-3 hours total at the outpatient facility. This time accounts for preparation and recovery. Most doctors also recommend that you take it easy for 12 hours after the procedure, which includes not driving for at least 10 hours.
Signs and Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer often develops slowly. Many people diagnosed with colorectal cancer report experiencing no signs or symptoms of the disease, which is why it is so important to have routine colonoscopy screenings. Colorectal cancer may cause one or more of the following symptoms.
- Changes in bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation
- Rectal bleeding
- Blood in your stool
- Abdominal pain, gas, bloating, or cramping
- Weakness and fatigue
- Weight loss
If you suffer from any of the above symptoms for an extended period, or if your symptoms become severe, call your doctor, and schedule a colonoscopy.
What if Your Doctor Finds a Polyp?
If your doctor finds a polyp during your colonoscopy, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have colorectal cancer. Studies show that doctors with a higher adenoma detection rate (ADR) conduct higher quality colonoscopy screenings.
Polyps are typically harmless and benign when detected early. A polyp may grow for ten years before it becomes cancerous and starts to spread. Having routine colonoscopy screenings can prevent pre-cancerous polyps from developing into cancer.
If a polyp is identified during your colonoscopy, your doctor will likely remove all polyps discovered and may recommend increasing the screening frequency.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before Your Colonoscopy
It’s important to ask questions before getting a colonoscopy. The following questions will help you understand the procedure, risks, benefits, and alternatives to make an informed decision.
- How long will it take?
- What are my options if I have insurance?
- Who will be performing the test, and what qualifications do they have?
- What is your adenoma detection rate?
- What medications must I stop taking before the procedure?
- Are there any restrictions on diet or activity beforehand?
Providing Patient Comfort with Surgilube®
Surgilube® is proud to be the #1 surgical lubricant trusted by medical professionals. Our sterile, bacteriostatic medical lubricant provides premium lubrication and effectively adheres to endoscopes and other surgical instruments while easing patient discomfort.
“Surgilube® Surgical Lubricant provides a viscosity that helps protect the bowel lining while it provides a smoother, more comfortable experience for the patient without obstructing the view of my scope!”– Gastroenterologist