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Why You Shouldn’t Postpone Your Colonoscopy

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Why You Shouldn’t Postpone Your Colonoscopy

Apr 25, 2019

Busy lifestyles sometimes lead to patients putting off appointments until their schedule is free enough to accommodate checkups and appointments. While a colonoscopy itself is a short procedure, prepping for it can take a few hours. However, there are many reasons you shouldn’t put off a colonoscopy. Colon cancer affects about 1 in 20 people in the United States and is being diagnosed at a considerably younger age over the past few years. Read on to learn why this is the one test you should make time for, and when to contact your doctor if you’re experiencing any gastrointestinal symptoms.

Colon Cancer Symptoms

Unfortunately, the beginning symptoms of colon cancer can be relatively mild and may be confused with other gastrointestinal conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). More severe symptoms of colon cancer don’t normally appear until the disease is in its later stages. Survival rates drop sharply in the later stages of colorectal cancer, so it’s important to note any symptoms and report them to your doctor as soon as possible if they persist. Some beginning colon cancer symptoms include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea (not at the same time typically as constipation)
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Fatigue
  • Sudden, unexplained weight loss
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Blood in the stool
  • Narrowing of the stool

It’s easy to see why these symptoms are often mistaken for other conditions, but if you feel that you have several of these symptoms with regularity, it’s a good idea to let your doctor know.

The Importance of Colonoscopy

In 2018, the American Cancer Society changed the recommended screening guidelines for both men and women from age 50 to age 45. This is due to higher incidences of colon cancer cases in younger patients over recent years. There are several screening tests to detect colon cancer, but colonoscopy is the gold standard.

Colon cancer begins as polyps in the colon or rectum (thus the term colorectal cancer). Over time, these polyps can become cancerous and spread throughout the colon and to other areas of the body. Colonoscopy is preferred because it can not only detect polyps in the colon, but your gastroenterologist can also remove them with the colonoscope as soon as they are identified. This is one screening test that can discover cancer and remove it in the same procedure.

Who Should Get a Colonoscopy?

If you are 45 or older, you should schedule a colonoscopy with your physician as soon as you can. Typically, the procedure is covered by insurance, and there are no out-of-pocket costs. However, it’s a good idea to check with your insurance company prior to booking the appointment. Not all insurances have caught up with the updated guidelines as of 2019.

If you have a family history of polyps or colon cancer, you should share this information with your doctor. This may qualify you for earlier screening, as this family history puts you in a high-risk category. Also, those of African-American and Ashkenazi Jewish descent have a higher risk of colon cancer. After your first colonoscopy screening, your doctor will inform you how often you should be tested.

Can Colon Cancer Be Prevented?

While genetics is involved with colon cancer cases, there are also preventable risk factors that have contributed to many cases of colon cancer. Patients are advised to eat a healthy diet full of leafy greens and fiber and cut out the excess sugar. Those who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of colon cancer. Smokers and heavy drinkers or alcoholics are also in high-risk groups. Patients should quit smoking immediately and cut back or curtail their drinking. Eating red and processed meats, especially for women, have been linked to colon cancer. Exercising regularly has been associated with a lower risk of colon cancer. A few simple lifestyle changes can certainly make a great deal of difference, not only in your colon cancer risk but in your overall health picture. 

If you need more information about colon cancer, colonoscopy, or risk factors, or would like to schedule an appointment for a consultation or a colonoscopy, book an appointment with Carolina Digestive Health Associates today. We offer eight convenient office locations to provide you with the best of care.