The colonoscopy gets a lot of grief, and when you hear some of the horror stories, it's not surprising. The truth is, it's not as bad as some of these stories might suggest. More of the fear gets stripped away when you understand how vital this procedure is in preventing colon cancer.
4 Facts About Colon Cancer
- Colon cancer is the most diagnosed form of cancer.
- Colon cancer causes the second leading cause if cancer death in Idaho and nationally.
- More than 50,000 dead from colon cancer in 2014.
- The risk of developing colon cancer is two to three times higher than the general population if a parent or sibling has colon cancer as well.
The Good News About Colonoscopies
In honor of Colorectal Cancer Month, here are 5 reasons why a colonoscopy may not be so bad:
- The procedure is the only way to determine whether you may have colon cancer before it is too late. The colonoscopy is done to check for the presence of an adenoma. The American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) says an adenoma starts out as a small grape-like growth in your colon or rectum and may turn into cancer.
- Preparation for the actual colonoscopy”not the procedure itself”is often the most challenging part. In order for your doctor to properly examine your bowels, they need to be as clean as possible. That means adopting a liquid diet and using laxatives, and possibly enemas in the day leading up to your colonoscopy, says the American Cancer Society (ACS). The laxatives tend to work quickly, so make sure you're near a bathroom during prep day.
- The exam lasts only about 30 minutes, according to the ACS. Even better, you will be given the option of sedation. You can choose to stay awake if you want”some people like to see what the doctor sees.
- You don't need a colonoscopy more than every five to 10 years. If the doctor doesn't notice an adenoma, you are in the clear. Even if one or two low-risk adenomas are detected and removed, don't worry. The AGA notes that colon cancer grows very slowly, and having another procedure done five years later is sufficient. You may need them more frequently if you have a family history of colon cancer.
- At most, you will miss two days of work: One for the prep and another for the actual procedure.
Risk Factors At Play For Colon Cancer
While having a colonoscopy might not be too bad, being diagnosed with colon cancer is serious. Knowing the risks can help keep it at bay. Here are 5 lifestyle-related and other risk factors from the ACS that increase the likelihood of colon cancer:
- Your Eating Habits: Diets that emphasize red and processed meats have been shown to increase cancer risks, while vegetables, fruits, and whole grains seem to decrease this risk.
- Physical Inactivity: Not getting enough exercise can contribute to your risk of developing colon cancer. Although the risks are increased if you are obese regardless of gender, the risks are far more significant if you are male.
- Smoking And Drinking: Although smoking has traditionally been linked to lung cancer, don't let that fool you into thinking you're in the clear for colon cancer. Anything more than two drinks per day for men and one for women leads to a heightened chance of colon cancer as well.
- Age: Although younger adults may also get colon cancer, 90% of those diagnosed are at least 50 years of age.
- Family History: If a first-degree relative has had colon cancer, your chances double in relation to the general population. They're even higher if that relative was diagnosed before age 45 or if you have two first-degree relatives with cancer.
For more informatoin, read: The Good News About Colon Cancer Screening And Diagnosis