Colonoscopy Facts

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Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death among Americans.  The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2013, 102,000 new cases of colon cancer and 40,000 rectal cancer cases will be diagnosed. 51,000 people will die of colorectal cancer.  One in twenty will develop colorectal cancer.  Colorectal cancer is preventable. Detection of colorectal cancer can be done with a test called a colonoscopy.  A colonoscopy screens for colorectal cancer.  Let’s discuss colonoscopies and why they are so important. 

First, a little anatomy lesson.  The colon is essentially a six-foot muscular tube that connects the small intestine to the rectum.  The colon is an organ that processes waste.   The colonoscopy examines the track for polyps.  The test will remove any polyps that may have formed.

Next, what is a polyp?  A polyp is a growth on the inside of the colon wall.  If a polyp is not removed, it can turn into a cancer tumor.  The process of a polyp turning into a cancerous tumor may take ten to fifteen years.  It is important to your health to remove any polyps.  Most, but not all, polyps are benign. About 25 percent of all Americans older than age 50 will have at least one colorectal polyp.

Now that you understand a little about the colon and polyps, you need to understand what a colonoscopy is.  It is an outpatient procedure that examines your colon track.  If during the examination polyps are encountered, they are removed.  The exam is accomplished by inserting a probe/TV camera/surgical tool that travels the whole length of the colon, all six feet of it.  If that sounds a little uncomfortable, relax, anesthesia is normally administered prior and during the test.  You can take the exam without anesthesia, just be prepared for some discomfort.  The upside of not using anesthesia is that you can get on with the rest of your day.

Preparations must be made prior to the exam.  They include fasting and cleansing. Cleansing is cleaning out your colon. The day before the exam you must fast.  Only liquids are allowed.  The closest to food you can eat is Jell-O.   The cleaning process includes drinking a gallon of Gatorade (or something similar) that contains a large dose of powdered laxative.  You drink the Gatorade over a 2-3 hour period of time.  Staying close to a bathroom is essential. There are several cleansing methods.  Discuss with your doctor alternative methods.  Being perfectly honest, the prep is harder than the exam.  In most cases you only need to do the test every five years on average.

Regular testing is recommended for people age 50 or older with normal risk of colorectal cancer.  Your doctor may recommend more frequent testing or earlier testing if you have a higher risk for colorectal cancer.  One risk factor is a family history of colorectal cancer.  Also be cognizant of the warning signs, e.g., blood in the stool, rectal bleeding, dark stools, chronic diarrhea, etc.

This is a lifesaving test.  Early detection is important for this type of cancer with a five year rate of survival about 93 percent for Stage 1 Colorectal Cancer.  If you have question or you want additional information, talk to your doctor.  Webmd.com is an excellent information source also.  Most information about this article was obtained from webmd.com and personal experience.

Don’t let colon cancer get to you, get the test!

Remember, it’s rChance to Thrive, Every Day and in Every Way. 

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