Colonoscopy: Don’t Skip this Important Cancer Screening

by Super User

Preventive Care

Did you know that colon cancer is completely preventable with proper screening? Polyps that could become cancerous can be detected and removed at their earliest stages to prevent the development of colon cancer.

Unfortunately, many people skip the screening, allowing colon cancer to advance undetected until it is much more difficult to treat. Although colon cancer rates are decreasing as more people learn about the importance of screening, it is still the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women in the United States.

The gold standard for colon cancer screening is colonoscopy — a high-definition video examination of your bowel and colon. For most people, the first colonoscopy should be scheduled at age 50. People of African American descent or with a family history of colon cancer or polyps should talk to their physician to see if the exam is recommended earlier.

Misinformation or misunderstanding about what is involved with a colonoscopy prevents many people from having this potentially lifesaving exam or properly preparing for it.

A colonoscopy is best performed by a gastroenterologist, a specialist who receives years of training to detect and remove polyps during the procedure.

Preparation is critical to eliminate all material from the gastrointestinal tract and cleanse it to give the best view of your colon walls and allow detection of tiny abnormalities. Follow all instructions from your physician to flush out your digestive system and don’t believe those who say that laxatives are sufficient to do the job. Some physicians recommend beginning the cleansing process with a low-fiber diet beginning five days before your procedure. This is followed by a prescribed solution mixed with water that’s taken in two doses beginning the day before your procedure.

Though a colonoscopy typically takes 20-30 minutes, you may spend 2-3 hours at the hospital or testing facility. Sedation treatment administered by trained anesthesia specialists keeps you comfortable throughout the exam.

The scope used during the screening has a light and a camera which transmits high-resolution images of your colon’s walls to monitors that look like television screens. Any polyps are removed and sent to a pathologist for study. When a colonoscopy reveals no polyps, it’s likely your gastroenterologist will say you won’t need another screening for up to ten years.

Between these scheduled exams, contact your physician immediately if you experience any of these symptoms of a bowel problem:

·         Bloody stools

·         Frequent stomach pains, aches or cramps for no known reason

·         A change in bowel habits, like narrower stools

·         Constipation or diarrhea unrelated to recent meals or

·         Losing weight without trying

A colonoscopy is one of the few screening exams that can prevent cancer, and it’s such an important life-saving tool that it is covered by all medical insurances and Medicare. Make the most of this life saving opportunity by selecting a skilled physician and preparing properly for the exam.

To find a local, independent gastroenterologist, visit Medical Group of Pennsylvania’s directory.

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