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How A Colonoscopy Can Save Your Life

Colonoscopy can save your life

Colonoscopies save lives. It is one of the few tests or procedures that directly prevent cancer or detect it early enough to do something about it. Colon cancer is the 2nd most common cause of cancer-related deaths and is expected to cause almost 53,000 deaths in 2021.

However, experts believe that nearly 32,000 of those estimated deaths could be prevented with proper screening.

The gold standard colon cancer screening is a colonoscopy, and it can save your life in two ways:

1) A colonoscopy prevents cancer from developing

Polyps that form in the colon are removed when your doctor finds them during the colonoscopy. Polyps eventually turn into cancer. Removing them as soon as they are found stops cancer from developing. Polyps are more common in people over age 45 – simply because of aging. Polyps are also more common in people with underlying risk factors, like a family history of colon cancer, and for people with lifestyle risk factors like smoking or being obese.

Polyps generally turn into cancer slowly. This is why colonoscopies are performed every 10 years in people of average risk. If your doctor finds and removes polyps, then you will usually need more frequent colonoscopies. Your doctor will recommend a colon cancer screening schedule based on your results and risk factors.

2) A colonoscopy detects cancer early

Sometimes, a polyp may have already turned into cancer by the time you have a colonoscopy. If colon cancer is found, the chances of it being treatable are much higher. People who have a colonoscopy because they are experiencing symptoms are more likely to have more severe cancer. That’s because early-stage cancer often has no physical symptoms.

Colon cancer that is found early has a 90% survival rate for 5 years. That number goes down to only 15% if it is found at a later stage and has already spread to other parts of the body.

A colonoscopy is not something people enjoy thinking about or talking about. But it’s truly a life-saving test – and you won’t even be awake for it.

Here’s how to know it’s time to schedule:

  • Your first colonoscopy:
    • You are 45 or older
    • You are under 45 and have:
    • A family history of colon cancer
    • Other risk factors like smoking or obesity
  • Your next colonoscopy:
    • It’s been longer than your doctor recommended
      • Typically – 10 years if you didn’t have polyps and have average risk
      • 2-5 years if you had multiple polyps, precancerous polyps, large polyps, or a higher risk of developing colon cancer

Don’t put off this life-saving test any longer. Schedule an appointment for a colonoscopy today!

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