Symptoms of colon cancer are not very obvious in early stages. That is why all men and women are encouraged to have a colonoscopy by age 50.
A colonoscopy is a screening of the colon (large intestine) that helps determine whether or not you might be at risk for developing colon cancer. During the procedure the doctor looks at the entire colon and rectum for abnormalities with a colonoscope, a lighted tube with a video camera on one end.
Here are three main things the doctor is looking for:
Also known as adenomatous polyps (adenomas), these can change into cancer.
Hyperplastic polyps and inflammatory polyps are generally non-cancerous, but should be watched.
Abnormal cells in the lining of the colon or rectum, often found in people who have had ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.
While this screening doesn’t sound appealing to most, it is no longer your father’s colonoscopy. They are much more comfortable today and the best way to check for colorectal cancer or pre-cancerous polyps. Sedation and easy surgery preparation are just two of the ways that colonoscopies have changed.
Dr. Matthew Harrison, gastroenterologist at Community Endoscopy Center, recognizes that colonoscopies are not a popular screening amongst patients.
“Usually when I see a patient for the first time I try to keep things informal because I know they are under a little bit of stress,” said Dr. Harrison. “I understand that, I’ve been a patient myself. I think the most important thing that the patient realizes is that I do care about their health and the outcome of the colonoscopy.”
His goal is to get to know his patient and share with them the importance of the colonoscopy.
“It’s important that the patient understand what the procedure will entail, what the goal is and what the procedure can do,” said Dr. Harrison.
Colonoscopies can do a lot. They are the key screening used in the prevention and diagnosis of colon cancer. When detected early through a colonoscopy, colon cancer is very treatable. There is a five-year survival rate of 90 percent, and there are over one million survivors of colorectal cancer in the United States alone.
Ready to schedule your colonoscopy?
Call 800-777-7775 to be referred to a Community gastroenterologist.