Over the past 20 years, the death rate from colorectal cancer has decreased. This is largely due to the fact that more people are undergoing regular colonoscopy screenings.
“Colonoscopies do not just allow us to detect cancer in its early stages,” says Michael R. Freeman, MD, gastroenterologist, Saint Francis Medical Partner. “They also enable us to prevent it by removing polyps before they can develop into cancer.”
During a colonoscopy, a doctor uses a thin, flexible tube with a video camera on its end to look at the inner lining of the large intestine. He or she can remove abnormal growths and collect tissue samples from growths that cannot be removed.
The American Cancer Society recommends that both men and women who are at average risk undergo a colonoscopy every 10 years, beginning at age 50. Colonoscopies should begin earlier for people who are at a higher risk, including those who:
- Have a first-degree relative who developed colorectal cancer before age 60 (colonoscopies should begin at age 50, or 10 years before the youngest case in the immediate family, and be repeated every five years)
- Have two or more first- or second-degree relatives who developed colorectal cancer at any age (colonoscopies should begin at age 50 and be repeated every 10 years)
- Have inflammatory bowel disease (colonoscopies should begin eight years after the large intestine becomes affected, and be repeated every one to two years)
- Have a genetic condition (colonoscopies should begin in childhood and be repeated as directed by your doctor)
“If you have any questions about whether you should be beginning colonoscopy screenings before age 50, talk to your doctor,” says Freeman.
For more information, call 573-331-3996 or visit our Gastroenterology Services webpage.