Effective Testing to Find and Prevent Colorectal Cancer
As the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program notes, colon and rectal (colorectal) cancer is the fourth-most common cancer in the U.S. and the second-leading cause of death from cancer. However, colorectal cancer is among the most treatable cancers if we can find it early. A colonoscopy is the best way for us to do that.
At Baystate Health, our gastroenterologists offer colonoscopies to help detect colorectal cancer as early as possible. We’re here to support you throughout this process.
Why Do I Need a Colonoscopy?
Colorectal cancer often starts as polyps (growths) within the colon (large intestine) that can develop into cancer over time. Polyps and colorectal cancer in early stages don’t usually cause symptoms. Without regular testing, you may not know you have any polyps or cancer until later stages of the disease, which can make it harder to treat successfully.
While there are other colorectal cancer tests available, such as Cologuard and a fecal immunochemical test (FIT), a colonoscopy is the best option for finding precancerous and cancerous cells. The actual colonoscopy procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes. And, although it can be a challenge to prepare for a colonoscopy, the newest prep formulas are easier to take today.
Learn more about how to prepare for a colonoscopy, or watch the video below for more information on preparing for your colonoscopy.
When Do I Need a Colonoscopy?
If you have an average risk for colorectal cancer, we typically recommend that you have your first colonoscopy when you turn 50 and then every 10 years afterward . The average 60-year-old has a 25% chance of a colonoscopy that detects a polyp.
If you have a parent or sibling who’s been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, you may need to start having colonoscopies earlier. Talk to your primary care provider about your risk and when you should start having colonoscopies.
What Will Happen During My Colonoscopy?
We’ll sedate you (give light anesthesia) during your colonoscopy to help you be more comfortable. During the procedure, your doctor will insert a colonoscope (a thin, flexible tube with a small light and camera) through the rectum and into your colon. The camera lets your doctor view the inside of your colon on a screen in the exam room. If your doctor sees any polyps, we usually can remove them during the procedure.
You’ll need to have a responsible adult with you to drive you home after your colonoscopy. If we detect any polyps, we’ll test them to determine if they’re precancerous or cancerous. If we find precancerous polyps, you’ll need regular follow-up colonoscopies to check for any additional polyps that may develop. If your doctor finds cancerous cells, we’ll work with you to develop a customized treatment plan.
How Do I Get a Colonoscopy?
Talk with your primary care provider about when you need to schedule a colonoscopy.