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Over 45? Don't Delay This Lifesaving Cancer Screening

Over 45? Don't Delay This Lifesaving Cancer Screening

An outpatient colonoscopy is the single most important thing you can do to prevent colorectal cancer. It could save your life.

Did you know that many cases of colorectal cancer have no symptoms or warning signs until the cancer has spread? Colonoscopies can help prevent colorectal cancer or find it at an earlier stage when it is smaller and easier to treat. 

Colorectal cancer is a term used for cancer that starts in the colon or rectum. These cancers may also be referred to as colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where they begin. Here are a few more helpful terms and their meanings:

  • Polyp: Most colorectal cancers begin as a polyp, a small growth of tissue that may grow into the colon or rectum if not removed. Polyps can be removed during a colonoscopy.
  • In Situ: Cancer has formed, but it is not yet growing into the colon or rectum walls.
  • Local: Cancer is growing in the colon or rectum walls; nearby tissue is not affected.
  • Regional: Growth is into tissue or lymph nodes, beyond the colon or rectum walls.
  • Distant: Cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver or lungs.

Am I at risk for colorectal cancer?

Personal Risk Factors

  • Age - Although a person can be diagnosed with colon cancer at any age, 90 percent of colorectal cancer is discovered in individuals aged 45 and older. Therefore, being over the age of 45 is considered a risk factor.

  • Personal History of Polyps or Cancer - If you have a history of adenomatous polyps (adenomas), you are at increased risk of developing colorectal cancer. If you have had colon cancer, even if it has been completely removed, you are likely to develop cancers in other areas of the colon and rectum.
  • Family History - If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor about screenings. It is recommended you have a colon screening before age 45 if you have a family history of colon cancer.
  • Personal History of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) - IBD, which includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, is a condition in which the colon is inflamed over a long period of time. People who have IBD for many years develop dysplasia – a term used to describe cells that line the colon and rectum that look abnormal. These cells can change into cancer over time.

Lifestyle-Related Risk Factors

  • Food - Diets high in red meats (such as beef, lamb or liver), processed meats (hot dogs and luncheon meats) and saturated fats elevate your risk. Additionally, cooking meats at high temperatures (frying, broiling or grilling) creates chemicals that may increase your risk of developing colon cancer. Diets high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains have been linked with a decreased risk of colon cancer.
  • Physical Activity - If you are not physically active, you have a greater chance of developing colon cancer. Increasing activity may help reduce your risk.
  • Obesity - If you are overweight, your risk of developing and dying from colon cancer is increased. A healthy weight decreases your risk of cancer.
  • Smoking and Heavy Alcohol Use - Smoking is a well-known cause of lung cancer, but it is also linked to other cancers like colorectal. Colorectal cancer has also been linked to the heavy use of alcohol. Alcohol use should be limited to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

When should I have a colonoscopy?

At age 45

if you have no family history of polyps or colon cancer (source: American Cancer Society)

10 years younger

than the age a first-degree relative (parent, sibling or child) had polyps or colon cancer

What should I expect?

  • Before a colonoscopy, patients are put on a clear liquid diet and typically drink a laxative preparation.
  • During a colonoscopy, a doctor eases a flexible, lighted tube with a video camera on the end inside the colon. Small amounts of air are puffed in to allow the doctor to see clearly. The colonoscope sends pictures to a TV screen.
  • The exam usually takes 30 minutes to an hour.
  • You will be sedated (asleep) for the entire exam.
  • The colonoscope, also called an endoscope, is about the width of a pea.
Put your health first by keeping on your calendar important health screenings, like colonoscopies. Delaying these screenings can increase your risk of a later diagnosis and more extensive treatment down the road.

Call (985) 243-9022 to schedule a consultation with a doctor at North Oaks Surgical Associates. No referral necessary.

Updated: March 2021