According to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer is one of the five most common types of cancer, but thanks in large part to increased awareness about the importance of colonoscopy, the death rate from colorectal cancer has been steadily declining. Typically, colon cancer has no symptoms. Screening is the only way to detect anomalies, including finding and removing polyps before they become cancerous. The purpose of a colonoscopy is to detect early cancers or polyps in the colon (large intestine) and rectum. A polyp is a tiny growth on the inside of the colon. They are usually benign, but sometimes they can become cancerous, which is why adults over age 50 should be tested. It’s a common procedure, yet it seems that everyone wonders what to expect during a colonoscopy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says up to 60 percent of deaths from colon cancer could be avoided if every 50+ aged individual was screened on a regular basis. If you are in the “average risk” group, you should be tested every 10 years. If you are at higher risk, your doctor may recommend getting your first colonoscopy at an earlier age and/or repeating the exam more often. Higher risk is generally associated with family or personal history with colorectal cancer or chronic inflammatory bowel disease.