Colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer in the United States and the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. Approximately 140,000 new cases are diagnosed in this country every year, and about 51,000 people die from the disease annually. Colon-cancer screening, including colonoscopy, could have played a lifesaving role in thousands of these deaths.
Colonoscopy saves lives
Clinical studies have documented that colonoscopy prevents death from colon cancer.
“According to federal estimates, however, only 6 in 10 adults are up to date in following the screening recommendations,” says Dr. Dale Rosenberg, a gastroenterologist with Regional GI. “In general, you should start screening for colorectal cancer at age 50—earlier if you have a family history of the disease or signs that you may have a problem.”
What is a colonoscopy?
During a colonoscopy, your doctor examines the inside of your large intestine by inserting a tube with a tiny camera into your rectum. You need to take strong laxatives the day before to clean out your intestine, but during the actual exam, you’ll most likely be sedated, so you won’t feel a thing.
If precancerous polyps (growths in the large intestine) are spotted, they can be removed immediately.
“While not every polyp turns into cancer, nearly all colorectal cancers start out as adenomatous polyps,” explains Dr. Rosenberg.
Research has shown that removing precancerous polyps decreases the incidence and likelihood of dying from colorectal cancer. If cancer is present, it can be detected at an earlier, more treatable stage. Colonoscopy saves lives—the most important statistic of any cancer screening.
“Colon cancer is one of the few cancers that a screening test can prevent. But the exam only works if people use it,” adds Dr. Rosenberg. “Some people are simply embarrassed; others are deterred by the bowel preparation, which is often the toughest part. Cost can be another factor if the test is not covered by your insurance plan.”
Regardless of any misgivings people have about colonoscopy, everyone needs to understand the lifesaving potential of this test. And unlike other cancer screenings, you need a colonoscopy only every 10 years if no polyps are detected.
To learn more and find a doctor who performs colonoscopies, click here.