Time for a Colonoscopy!

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), there will be over 95,000 new cases of colon cancer, and over 39,000 new cases of rectal cancer in the United States this year. The ACS also estimates that colorectal cancer will cause over 49,000 deaths in 2016. The death rate among people with colorectal cancer has been declining over the years, however. This is thanks in part to early detection of cancer, and colorectal polyps through cancer screening methods such as colonoscopy.

What is a colonoscopy?

The North Hills Gastroenterology Endoscopy Center defines a colonoscopy as:

A visual examination of the entire large intestine, also known as the colon. This exam is used to explore possible causes of abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, chronic constipation, chronic diarrhea and other intestinal problems. A colonoscopy is also used as a method of screening for colon cancer.

During a colonoscopy, a gastroenterologist uses a flexible, lighted tube called a colonoscope to examine the interior of the colon. The gastroenterologist may take samples or remove colorectal polyps during a colonoscopy.

Who is at risk for colorectal cancer?

Both men and women are at risk of developing colorectal cancer, but the risk is slightly higher for men than for women. Other risk factors for colon cancer or rectal cancer include:

  • Heavy alcohol consumption increases your risk.
  • People who smoke are at a higher risk of developing and dying from colorectal cancer.
  • People who are obese, or very overweight, are at a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer, and of dying from colorectal cancer.
  • Regular physical activity can help reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Diets high in red or processed meats can increase your risk of colon or rectal cancer, whereas diets high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may decrease your risk.
  • People with type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop colorectal cancer than people without diabetes.

Other risk factors include age, family health history, and personal history of GI related issues. Also, African Americans are statistically more likely to develop colorectal cancer than any other racial group in the United States.

Screening for colorectal cancer saves lives

Colonoscopy can literally save lives. North Hills Gastroenterology Endoscopy Center recommends that both men and women who are at an average risk for colon cancer start scheduling colonoscopies at age 50 (age 45 for African Americans). Colonoscopies should be scheduled every 10 years. Those at a higher risk for colon cancer may need to start screening earlier, or screen more often.