Here at Carolina Digestive Health Associates, we are most excited about having healthy patients. While being healthy can come from a variety of different lifestyle choices, diet, or simply really good genes, we want to recognize the importance that comes from regular preventative health screenings. One of the most effective ones available is a colonoscopy!
But what is a colonoscopy and why do I need one? Is a colonoscopy as bad as it sounds? Here are five things we want you to know about this exam.
While colonoscopies are most commonly used to detect colorectal cancer, they can also look for other abnormalities in your digestive system. If you’ve experienced blood in your stool, unexplained weight loss, constipation or diarrhea, or a general change in your bowel habits, a colonoscopy might be in order. It’s the easiest way for our doctors to get a glimpse of the inside of your body and look for anything that might be causing these changes.
In most cases, a colonoscopy only lasts about 30 minutes. It’s done in the comfort of our offices, with one of the Carolina Digestive team members here to make sure the experience is comfortable and quick. Once you’re done with the exam, we’ll send you home to relax later that afternoon.
A colonoscopy isn’t one of those exams that only men should get or only women who are experiencing the symptoms of colorectal cancer or other GI diseases. All men and women age 50 and above should make an appointment for a colonoscopy as soon as possible. If nothing is discovered during your exam, we don’t have to see you for another 10 years. The American Cancer Society amended their recommendation to begin screening at age 45. This change reflects the continued rise in colon cancers found in younger patients. At this time, it is unclear if insurance companies will change coverage to agree with these new guidelines. It is important for each patient to be aware of their risk, and their coverage, and discuss both with your doctor.
While the current recommendations suggest that you need a colonoscopy beginning at age 50, those recommendations don’t factor in known risk factors. While colorectal cancer risk starts to rise at age 50, there are certain groups who have higher rates of cancer than others. African Americans should consider testing earlier, as well as anyone with a family or personal history of the disease. Patients who have inflammatory bowel disease are also at a higher risk, as are those who have a sedentary lifestyle, drink, smoke, or eat a diet high in red meat and low in fruits and veggies.
Colonoscopies are certainly not high on anyone’s list of fun things to do, but the peace of mind that comes with them and taking your own health into your hands is priceless. If you are approaching your 50th birthday, treat yourself to a life-saving exam this year. If you’re older than 50 and still haven’t had a colonoscopy, do it now, before it’s too late. Colorectal cancer shows very few symptoms when it’s still in its early stages, and it also takes a long time to develop from polyp stage to cancer. If you have regular exams, our team is likely to be able to detect abnormalities and begin treatment if needed.
We’re looking forward to serving your needs and discussing colonoscopies with you, so make an appointment with us today.