by Moin Kola, M.D.
Central Florida Hepatology & Gastroenterology ♦ 407-303-1812 ♦ fhmedicalgroup.com
According to the American Cancer Society, the colon cancer death rate in this country could be cut by more than one-half if Americans simply followed recommended screening guidelines. Early detection and treatment are critical. If caught early, colorectal cancer is 90 percent curable. If pre-cancerous polyps are found during screening, the disease is often altogether preventable. Because colorectal cancer can develop without any signs or symptoms, a colonoscopy could serve as a lifesaving test.
It’s important to know who should be screened and when. Men and women are affected equally by colorectal cancer. Unlike other cancer screenings, which can only detect a problem, colorectal cancer screening with colonoscopy can prevent colorectal cancer by removing precancerous polyps during the exam. For patients of average risk with no family history, it is widely recommended that screenings for colon cancer begin at age 50, with follow-up screenings every five to 10 years, even for people who feel perfectly healthy. If you have a family history of cancer, are experiencing pain or bleeding, or a previous screening revealed polyps, your doctor may recommend that you be screened earlier or more frequently.
The colonoscopy is the gold standard of screening for colorectal cancer. You do not need to feel embarrassed or ashamed during a colonoscopy. It is your doctor’s job to perform this lifesaving screening, and every effort is made to help patients feel comfortable during the painless procedure.
In preparation for the procedure, you’ll be asked to follow a clear liquid diet the day before. This means only water, clear broth, soda, tea, coffee (without milk/creamer), clear juice (without pulp), Jell-O, ice pops and other flavored drinks. You’ll be given instructions on using a laxative mixture to empty your bowel so that your colon can be viewed clearly during the test.
During the colonoscopy, your doctor will look at the inner lining of your large intestine, which includes your rectum and colon. A thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope is inserted while you are semi-sedated. Most patients have very little awareness that the procedure is taking place. Generally, a colonoscopy is done within an hour.
Along with functioning as a screening test to check for cancer or precancerous polyps in the colon or rectum, a colonoscopy can also help find ulcers, tumors and areas of inflammation or bleeding. It is important to be screened for colon cancer even if you are not currently experiencing symptoms or signs of polyps or cancers. ♥