Have you scheduled your colonoscopy?

September 10, 2018
Colonoscopy Services at Texoma Medical Center located in Denison, Texas

If you’re 50 and see your doctor periodically, you no doubt have been advised to schedule a colonoscopy. But many people put off having this important procedure. TexomaCare Gastroenterologist Nhat Nguyen, MD, says colonoscopies are lifesaving, but many people fear the preparation involved or are afraid it will be painful. “The preps we use today are much more patient-friendly and don’t require the patient to drink as much liquid,” he says. “On top of that, you don’t feel any pain because you are under anesthesia. On average, the  procedure itself takes about 15-20 minutes.”

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women, and the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women in the U.S. However, due to increased screenings, rates have declined for the past 20 years. Dr. Nguyen says the purpose of a screening colonoscopy is to find polyps, which are growths in the lining of the colon. Some are benign and some are pre-cancerous. “About one out of three males and one out of five females will have a precancerous polyp on a screening colonoscopy. The idea is to remove them before they have a chance to become cancerous,” he says.

Know the symptoms

 Early colon cancer usually presents without any symptoms at all, which is why screening is very important. However, as the tumor grows, symptoms can arise, such as abdominal pain, which can vary in location and intensity or a change in bowel habits, such as frequency and consistency of stool. When the disease is in an advanced stage, some people can experience unexpected weight loss, abdominal distention, anemia, passage of bloody stools, nausea and vomiting. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please consult with your doctor.

Learn more about colonoscopies and other treatments at Texoma Medical Center >

Who should be screened?

Dr. Nguyen says his practice begins screening patients when they turn 50. However, because African-Americans have a 20 percent higher incidence rate, initial screening for them is recommended at age 45.

If you have a family history of colon cancer in a first-degree relative, the screening guidelines are slightly different, states Dr. Nguyen. “It is recommended to start 10 years younger than the age of diagnosis, or age 40, whichever is earlier. For example, if your parents or siblings were diagnosed with colon cancer at age 45, you should get your first screening at age 35,” he says.

He notes that the American Cancer Society recently made a recommendation that colonoscopy screening should begin at age 45. “It’s just a recommendation for now. Once organizations such as the American College of Gastroenterology, the American Society of Gastroenterology and Endoscopy, and the American​ Gastroenterological Association review the data, there may be a movement to have screening colonoscopies begin at age 45 or even earlier,” he says.