When Should You Get A Colonoscopy?

Many people dread the word “colonoscopy” because they have either heard about the prep work required beforehand or fear the actual procedure itself as it does entail a very tiny camera tipped cable inserted rectally and moved throughout the colon.

Either way, at some point in your health you are going to have to get one done and according to the new guidelines recommended by the American College of Physicians, you will probably start at around 50 years old unless you have other concerns.

A colonoscopy can screen for a variety of conditions besides colorectal cancer.  Think about polyps, diverticulosis/diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, obstruction, masses, and general inflammation as these conditions may not necessarily be evaluated by other means.

As colorectal cancer is the most concerning condition, there are several habits associated with increasing your risk.  Research shows that red meat, processed meat, heavy alcohol use, smoking, obesity, and having inflammatory bowel disease are not good for your colon whereas exercise, high fiber diets, high intake of vegetables and fruit, folate, and vitamin D are healthy.

There are a small percentage of people who because of genetic factors must get their colonoscopies starting at 40 years old.  If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, you could fall into this category.

Symptoms to watch out for are low iron (anemia) for unknown reason, rectal bleeding, worsening constipation, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.  Unfortunately, some people do not have any symptoms and are only discovered on their routine screen.

If you get a colonoscopy and the doctor finds polyps in your colon they will so a biopsy and send it to pathology to be reviewed.  Should your polyp come back pre-cancerous, your doctor will probably highly recommend a shortened schedule for you such that you return in 3-5 years instead of the typical every 10 years to keep an eye on future polyp growth.

Don’t fear a colonoscopy as it really could save your life.  If you are experiencing any concerning gastrointestinal symptoms or you have a family history of colorectal cancer, talk with your health care provider today.

~ By Dr. Carrie Jones

Posted in health & fitness.

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2 Responses

  1. Generic Image Lindaloo says

    A good friend of mine has just had a colonoscopy and has discovered that she has a regrowth of a sessile polyp which was removed a couple of years ago. Her follow up six months after the first conlonoscopy was fine but the polyp is now back. The Surgeon doesn’t think it is cancerous however she will need bowel resectioning surgery to remove it. They will remove 4 inches of her bowel.
    Here is what I have found doing some research:
    Endoscopic Mucosal Resection (EMR) This is a procedure that is done inside the bowel without cutting into the bowel using state of the art endoscopic equipment. It also requires more follow-up care that requires a higher level of skills and equipment. EMR is beyond the capability of most mainstream gastroenterologists. So the normal way mainstream gastroenterologists get rid of your polyp is by sending you for surgery to cut out that part of your colon. 
    The normal procedure used  during a colonoscopy to take off polyps is not the same as what a Gastroenterologists trained in EMR would do and this can leave a lot of scar tissue.
    If you have a sessile polyp (meaning flat kind) like my friend had  and the Surgeon doing the colonoscopy takes if off and it grows back you may not be able to have the EMR if the polyp is not removed carefully and there is a lot of scar tissue.
    Sessile polyps are the hardest to remove as you have to get under them in order to remove them without piercing the bowel. During the EMR process they inject water and dye under the polyp to lift it up and delineate it. This is very delicate work and requires a skilled gastroenterologist but if done properly can save your bowel. If it grows back usually they can remove it again. They also follow up very closely with specialized equipments and lights that will show the tiniest growth which are can be removed by EMR. Every case is different but I think that I would want to try EMR before opting for major bowel surgery. The procedure takes about 1 hour and they use the same type of conscience sedation that’s used in a colonoscopy.

    My friend’s Surgeon said he could not remove this regrown polyp because of scar tissue left from the first time he removed the polyp. He doesn’t think the polyp is cancerous but recommends bowel resectioning surgery because it could likely become cancerous.

    I am just thinking about the colonoscopy I just had two weeks ago and the fact that I agreed to have any polyps removed without really knowing what the the consequences might be.  Lucky for me all was ok. If I were having one again  I would not agree to removing any polyps  and instead would ask to be referred to a gastroenterologist who does EMR.

    Colonoscopy is a valuable tool to help keep us healthy but the lesson here is once again, you have to be your own advocate and know your options.  

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  2. chataround chataround says

    I had my first colonoscopy just a few months after turning 50. It was such a non-event! Happily no polyps were found. I will go back in ten years. 

    A simple test like this can save your life.

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