Since the 1980s, the prevalence of colorectal cancer in the United States has steadily declined, largely because of the colonoscopy. That said, colorectal cancers still claim too many lives in the US — it’s the second leading cause of cancer death among men and women, and it’s expected to cause more than 52,000 deaths in 2022.
At Fairfax Colon & Rectal Surgery, one of the overriding goals of the highly skilled team of colorectal experts is to prevent colorectal cancer in the first place, and that starts with a colonoscopy.
Here’s a look at why a colonoscopy is one of the best health decisions you can make.
Colon and rectal cancers can be tricky — they can be slow growing and largely asymptomatic during the early stages. This means that these types of cancers can grow for years before you develop symptoms, and by the time this happens, it usually means the cancer is more advanced and more difficult to treat.
Through a colonoscopy, we’re not only checking for early signs of colorectal cancer, but we can also locate and remove potentially precancerous growths called polyps from your colon.
This ability to screen for cancer and prevent cancer from developing makes the colonoscopy an invaluable tool.
It used to be that colorectal cancers developed in mostly older populations, but there have been concerning trends in people under the age of 50. From 2012-2016, the American Cancer Society reports a 2% annual increase in colorectal cancers in this younger age group.
In response to this early-age onset trend, new guidelines were released, moving the first colonoscopy from the age of 50 down to 45. This recommendation is for people of average risk, meaning they don’t have a family or personal history of colon polyps. If you are at higher risk, we recommend a colonoscopy earlier and more often.
One of the hurdles to getting a colonoscopy is its reputation for being an unpleasant process. Most people who have been through the process can tell you it’s not as bad as you think.
We place you on a colon cleanse for 24 hours beforehand when you undergo a colonoscopy. Rather than viewing this time as a burden, think of it as a great way to clear your digestive tract.
When you come in for your colonoscopy, we sedate you to the point of sleep and perform the colonoscopy, which usually takes only 30 minutes. Before you know it, you’ll be awake and ready to go home.
If we find any polyps during your colonoscopy, we remove them for further testing. About 10 days after your screening, we will let you know the results, which will dictate when we should perform the next colonoscopy. In the best-case scenario, we won’t see you for another one for 10 years.
The bottom line is that a simple colonoscopy can potentially save your life, which makes this one screening you shouldn’t miss.
To learn more about colonoscopy, contact one of our offices in Fairfax, Fair Oaks, Alexandria, Gainesville, Woodbridge, or Lansdowne, Virginia.