Why Is A Colonoscopy Done?
A colonoscopy is an important medical procedure that is performed to screen for abnormalities and cancerous or precancerous changes in the colon (large intestine) and rectum. It is most often used for routine colon cancer screening, although it may also be recommended to help diagnose causes of abdominal pain, chronic constipation and other gastrointestinal issues.
Here’s what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—the country’s foremost authority on public health matters—has to say about colonoscopies:
- Everyone should begin regular colon cancer screening at age 50. The large majority of colon or rectal (colorectal) cancer cases—about 90%—develop in people who are 50 or older.
- Most healthy, average-risk adults should receive a colonoscopy once every 10 years.
- Individuals with certain gastrointestinal disorders or who have a family history of colorectal cancer should consider speaking with a doctor about earlier and more frequent screening.
- Colorectal cancer screening may not be necessary after age 75, although this should be determined on a case-by-case basis.
What Does a Colonoscopy Involve?
During a colonoscopy, a long, thin and flexible tool called a colonoscope is inserted into the rectum and fed through the colon. This tool features a very small, lighted camera at the end that allows the doctor to view detailed images of the inside of the colon. If any abnormalities or polyps—small clusters of cells that sometimes become cancerous—are detected, they can typically be removed during the colonoscopy. Most patients are placed under general anesthesia during the procedure and do not feel any discomfort. Some colonoscopies are completed in less than 30 minutes.
While a colonoscopy is brief and essentially painless, some people are apprehensive about receiving this important procedure due to its preparation process. The day before a colonoscopy, patients must be on an all-liquid diet and drink a prep solution to effectively clear the bowels. However, there have been improvements in the preparation process in recent years, and the benefits of receiving a colonoscopy far outweigh any negatives. Here’s why:
- Colon cancer is among the deadliest of cancers, and it rarely produces noticeable symptoms in its early stages.
- Colon cancer is highly treatable if it is caught in an early stage.
- Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women in the United States—the American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 150,000 cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed in 2020.
- Polyps can often be removed during the procedure which can reduce the need of additional procedures and sometimes prevent cancer completely.
Colonoscopies save lives! By receiving a colonoscopy, you are taking an important step in protecting your health.
Our Approach to Colonoscopies & Gastroenterology Care
Individuals in north suburban Boston who are interested in receiving a colonoscopy or learning about their colon cancer risk can turn to Tufts Medical Center Community Care. Our multispecialty medical group features experienced gastroenterologists who utilize the latest advancements in colon cancer screening and colonoscopy prep to ensure the best possible experience for our patients. Contact us today or schedule an appointment to learn more. We accept most health insurance plans and will be happy to answer any questions you may have.