Who Should Get a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is an exam that can screen for and prevent colorectal cancer, which is the third most common cancer in men and women. But if you’ve never had a colonoscopy, or it’s been a while since your last exam, you may be wondering whether it’s time to have the test.
You should have a colonoscopy if:
- You are 50 years old. The American Cancer Society recommends that men and women should be screened for colorectal cancer starting at age 50. Although there are other tests that can , a colonoscopy is the only screening test that also can prevent cancer from developing. If you are at high risk of developing colorectal cancer, your doctor may recommend that you have a colonoscopy starting at a younger age.
- You get a positive result on another colorectal cancer screening test. A positive result on another colorectal cancer screening test means that you will need to have a colonoscopy. Although stool tests such as a hemoccult test, a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) and a DNA test called Cologuard can sometimes provide “false positive” results, your doctor will still want to perform a colonoscopy so he or she can visually examine your entire colon for signs of cancer.
- You are having symptoms of colorectal cancer. If you are having symptoms of colorectal cancer, your doctor will need to do a colonoscopy to find out more about your condition. Colorectal cancer symptoms include:
- Rectal bleeding
- Dark-colored stools
- Blood in your stool
- Diarrhea or constipation that lasts for several days
- Narrow stools
- Abdominal cramps or pain
- Unintended weight loss
Although these symptoms can point to colorectal cancer, they also can be symptoms of other conditions, such as hemorrhoids or anal fissures. To figure out what is causing your symptoms, you need to let your doctor know and, if necessary, schedule a colonoscopy right away .
- It’s been a while since your last colonoscopy. Although a colonoscopy is highly effective at screening for and preventing colorectal cancer, it is important to follow your doctor’s recommendations for when you should repeat the test. Some people can go 10 years between colonoscopies, but other people may need to have a colonoscopy every five years or, in some cases, even sooner. If you wait too long to schedule your repeat colonoscopy, it can increase the chances that small growths called colon polyps will develop and turn into colon cancer before they can be removed.
Based on your medical history, other risk factors and overall health, your doctor will let you know when you should have a colonoscopy. And, scheduling your colonoscopy at the recommended time is one of the best things you can do to lower the chances that you will develop colorectal cancer. Learn more at FortHealthCare.com/colonoscopy.