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4 Reasons You Shouldn't Put Off Your Colonoscopy

March 4, 2020

If you're over the age of 50, or have a strong family history of colorectal cancer, you've probably heard your doctor recommend a screening colonoscopy.

It may sound like an uncomfortable procedure, and you may be tempted to skip it, but a colonoscopy is the best way to detect colorectal polyps and colorectal cancers early — when they're easiest to treat.

If you still need help putting your mind at ease about having a colonoscopy, here are four good reasons you shouldn't put it off off any longer.

Colonoscopy saves lives

"There is compelling evidence that colonoscopy has reduced the colon cancer mortality rate, as the decline in colon cancer deaths coincides nicely with how long we've been doing screenings," says Dr. Eamonn M. Quigley, chief of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Houston Methodist Lynda K. and David M. Underwood Center for Digestive Disorders. "It may be one of the most effective prevention tools and screenings that we have in medicine."

Colonoscopy prevents cancer

Colonoscopy is the only screening that detects and prevents cancer.

"Most colon cancers start out as polyps — small growths inside the colon," explains Dr. Quigley. "The key to cancer prevention is to remove the polyps before they become malignant, which we can do during colonoscopy."

Most people only need one every 10 years

"The general population should begin colon cancer screening at age 50," Dr. Quigley says. "The frequency is dependent on the screening's findings. But if your colonoscopy results are normal and you have no other risk factors, you only need to repeat it every 10 years."

It's not as bad as you think

Before the procedure, you'll need to completely empty your bowels — which you do with the help of a preparation solution. But the colonoscopy is a breeze once you get in the examination room.

"The procedure takes only about 20 to 40 minutes," says Dr. Quigley. "You'll be given some level of sedation and should be comfortable throughout the entire process."

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