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Colonoscopy

When you consider men and women together, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Screening is very important to find and remove precancerous growths known as polyps. Extensive research has shown that enrolling in a screening program lowers the death rate from this type of cancer, and screening should start at age 50. This age may be younger in families that have a history of colorectal cancer, especially if the affected family member was young at the time of diagnosis. The screening age may also be younger if more than one family member has had colorectal cancer.

Colonoscopy Specialists

Screening options

There are several options for screening; not getting screened is not an option. The least invasive method is to simply check your stool with a chemical test that determines whether blood is present. It is a very simple test, but it is not sensitive and may miss many cancers. This test should be performed every year if it is chosen as the screening method. Another method is to get a barium enema, also known as a lower GI X-ray. This is performed every 5 years. If a polyp or suspicious area is seen, then a colonoscopy is the next step. During the colonoscopy, many polyps can be removed and abnormal areas can be biopsied. Colonoscopy is considered the most sensitive and accurate screening method for colon and rectal cancer.

Preparing for a colonoscopy

The day before the examination, patients must undergo a bowel cleansing to remove stool from the colon. This allows the doctor to see clearly throughout the colon. A colonoscopy is usually performed under a light anesthetic so that you are comfortable during the procedure. After the test, your doctor will discuss the findings with you. About an hour after the test, you should be ready to go home. You must arrange for someone to drive you home; you will not be allowed to do so yourself. You can return to normal activities the next day.

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