A colonoscopy truly could be a life-saving procedure. As the second most deadly cancer (with almost 1 in every 20 people being diagnosed with the disease), surprisingly, the disease is largely preventable with regular screenings and is treatable when detected early.
However, there are a few important points to know when it comes to protecting yourself and doing what you can to address the possibility of colon cancer:
Colorectal cancer symptoms are extremely difficult to detect, especially in the early stages. The first clues to cancer are found in the form of polyps- abnormal growths in the tissue of the colon and rectum. Polyps are noncancerous at first, but over time some can develop into cancer and spread. Cancer that develops in the large intestine is identified as colon cancer. Rectal cancer describes cancer found in the rectum, the passageway between the colon and the anus. In most cases, symptoms of colorectal cancer are identified once cancer reaches a late stage. This is why a colonoscopy is so important. It identifies the presence of polyps before they become cancerous.
There are many reasons symptoms of colorectal cancer can be confusing. First, because there are no symptoms associated with polyps and the early stages of cancer. Second, because when symptoms do arise they are similar to the symptoms associated with an array of gastrointestinal problems. This includes a change in bowel habits like different stool consistency, blood in your stool, or regular diarrhea or constipation. Feeling bloated or like you’re unable to empty your bowels are also possible symptoms. Cramping and abdominal pain, nausea, fatigue, or unintended weight loss are all reasons to call your GI doctor.
While these could be symptoms of another less serious GI problem, it’s always important to be sure.
Advanced colorectal cancer can be life-threatening. Statistically, it is as dangerous as it is because the number of people who receive regular colonoscopies is so low. When found early, colon cancer is over 90% curable. The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases as a result of age, race, and genetics. You are at a higher risk if a close family member has developed colorectal cancer, especially at a young age. Gender doesn’t increase the risk of cancer development, but age does. Men and women experience a greater risk as they get older. Another important risk factor is race. African Americans are at a higher risk.
If you are at a higher risk, you should not put off screening. Take precautions to help lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer. If possible, avoid consumption of alcohol and tobacco. Eat a healthy diet that is high in fiber. Commit to exercising three days a week for at least twenty minutes.
An important factor in scheduling your screening is cost. Most insurance policies will cover your first colon screening at no out of pocket expense as long as you’re over 50, Although this is typically for patients with no symptoms. If you have a positive result while using an at-home test, and are referred for a colonoscopy, your test will be subject to whatever deductibles come with your policy. Make sure you are fully informed and use your resources carefully.
Scheduling a screening colonoscopy so that your GI doctor can detect the presence of colorectal cancer when it is still in a treatable stage may be your next step to ensuring you are as healthy as possible. Colorectal cancer doesn’t have to be a deadly disease when you make regular screenings a priority.
If you are between 45 and 50 years old, schedule a colonoscopy at Carolina Digestive today. Don’t assume it can wait.