Who Needs a Colonoscopy?
The National Cancer Institute estimates that there will be 148,810 new cases of colon and rectal cancer diagnosed in the United States in 2008. Colorectal cancer is often treatable if found early, which is why having a colonoscopy is so important.
A colonoscopy is used to detect cancer, precancerous polyps, or other abnormal conditions. If an abnormality is found during the procedure, diagnosis and treatment can occur promptly. In addition, finding and treating polyps may be one of the most effective ways to prevent the development of cancer altogether.
Dr. Helen Shields, a gastroenterologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, provides some guidelines for when you need a colonoscopy:
If you are at average risk for colon cancer (meaning you are age 50 years or older and have no family history of colon cancer or polyps), you should have a colonoscopy at age 50 and every 5-10 years thereafter.
If you have any of the following conditions, you are considered to be at increased risk for colon cancer and should have a colonoscopy beginning earlier and with a much closer follow-up examination schedule (based on the recommendations of your primary care physician and gastroenterologist):
- Family history of colon cancer or polyps
- Family history of colorectal cancer syndrome, such as hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer or familial adenomatous polyposis
- Personal history of colon cancer or adenomas
- Personal history of ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease
In addition, if you suffer from the following signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer, you should see your doctor immediately:
- Rectal bleeding, dark black stools or any blood in the stool
- Change in bowel habit such as constipation, narrowing of the stool diameter, or diarrhea
- A feeling that you still need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved after passing stool
- Cramping or persistent abdominal pain
- Fatigue or weakness
Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor
Posted March 2009