With the advancement of medical technology and additional health screenings available today, you may feel overwhelmed by the options. You may wonder if these tests your doctor suggests are truly for your benefit, or if they are just another opportunity for you to get a hefty medical bill. Read the following scenario and see if you can relate:
You just celebrated your 50th birthday, but you feel like you’re still in your thirties. You exercise regularly, you eat nutritious meals and you are pleased with your weight. You have a successful job and a happy home life, so your stress level is manageable. The best part is that you hardly ever go to the doctor because you don’t get sick very often. Some of your friends have been talking about getting a colonoscopy, but you are not sure that you need one. Is a colonoscopy just another “unnecessary test” that will cost you money?
Actually, a colonoscopy is anything but a wasted exam. Colon cancer is the third most common cause of cancer death in the United States, and it is over 90 percent treatable when it is found in the early stages. Although there are several types of colon screenings, a colonoscopy is the best method for screening the colon because it offers diagnosis, therapeutic treatment and prevention.
The reason that a colonoscopy is the best colon screening is that your doctor can view the entire length of your colon from rectum to cecum during the exam. A long, flexible tube called a colonoscope has a special camera attached that will allow your doctor to see any abnormalities in the colon. If polyps are discovered during the procedure, your doctor can remove the polyps and send them to a lab for diagnosis.
Every adult over the age of 50 (or 45 if you are African American) should have a baseline colonoscopy, even if they feel completely normal. It is important to note that colon cancer rarely is accompanied by symptoms in the early stages. By the time symptoms do appear, the disease can be quite advanced and far less treatable. If your colonoscopy is clear, this is the best news of all: you will not need to schedule another procedure for another ten years! One colonoscopy per decade is definitely worth it to know you are colon cancer-free!
If you ever notice changes in your bowel habits or exhibit symptoms of colon cancer, do not delay in making an appointment with your doctor. Colon cancer can develop at any age. The guidelines for beginning screening at age 50 comes from data showing that the majority of colon cancers develop between 50 and 75 years of age, but you are never too young for colon cancer. Pay attention to your body and take action if symptoms persist.