It’s predicted that about 106,000 new cases of colon cancer and 45,000 new cases of rectal cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2022. The rates of people being diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer are on the decline, primarily because people prioritize screening through colonoscopies.
Our gastroenterologist, Dr. Bharat Pothuri, at GastroDoxs in Houston, Texas, recommends you get a colonoscopy when you’ve reached certain points in your life. He may also recommend the procedure to diagnose conditions other than colon cancer or precancerous polyps.
What is a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a procedure that involves placing a long, narrow, flexible tube through your anus into your rectum and colon. Attached to the tube is a small camera that gives the doctor a look at the inside of your colon lining, which is where colon cancer starts.
Colon cancer usually begins as precancerous polyps. These polyps are not cancerous themselves, but the cells can morph into cancer later on. If polyps are detected during a colonoscopy, Dr. Pothuri can remove them and prevent them from causing you future harm.
When do I need a colon cancer screening?
It’s time for a colonoscopy if:
- You’re older than 45
- You have a personal history of colon cancer or colon polyps
- You have a family history of colon cancer or colon polyps, especially if a first-degree relative was diagnosed before age 50
These factors put you at a higher risk of developing colon cancer. While you might be a bit hesitant as you’ve heard the prep for a colonoscopy can be intense, know that these screenings can catch colon cancer before spreads or causes major damage. Your likelihood of beating cancer or avoiding it altogether is much greater if you get screened.
Most people have a colonoscopy every 5-10 years, but Dr. Pothuri can put you on a schedule that’s right for your personal health.
What are other reasons I might need a colonoscopy?
If you have a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, Dr. Pothuri may order a colonoscopy because you’re at increased risk of developing colon cancer. Your screenings may need to begin earlier than age 45 and happen more frequently.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) includes the diagnosis of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. IBD is not the same as IBS, which is irritable bowel syndrome. IBS does not increase your risk of developing colon cancer.
You may also need a colonoscopy if you’re showing unusual symptoms, such as:
- Bloody stools
- Rectal bleeding
- Major changes in your bowel habits
- Unexpected weight loss
- Abdominal pain
These could be signs of colon cancer and require a thorough investigation for you to get an accurate diagnosis.
Don’t wait for signs of colon cancer to get screened, though. Most cases of colon cancer have no symptoms.
To find out more about whether or not you’re in need of a colonoscopy, contact GastroDoxs today or book an appointment online. Dr. Pothuri can evaluate your personal and family history as well as any symptoms you’re having to guide you to the best screenings and treatments.