WHY ARE COLONOSCOPIES RECOMMENDED?
Colorectal cancer (also known as colon cancer) is the 2nd most common cause of cancer deaths in the United States, yet it is one of the most preventable types of cancer. Approximately 1 in 20 people will develop colon cancer in their lifetime. Colorectal cancer is often curable when detected early.
Colonoscopy is the only test that allows a biopsy or removal of a polyp at the very same time it is first identified. Removing polyps during a colonoscopy could stop colon cancer from growing or even cure it.
There is no way to completely eliminate the risk of developing colorectal cancer, but the systematic detection and removal of colon polyps during screening colonoscopies is the single most important intervention to reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer.
As well, early detection of colorectal cancer by screening is the best way to improve the chance of a successful cancer cure.
HOW DOES A COLONOSCOPY HELP PREVENT COLORECTAL CANCER?
Most colon cancers develop from precancerous polyps, which are abnormal growths from the wall of the colon. If these precancerous polyps are left alone, they have the potential to grow into a cancer.
Not all colon polyps have the same risk of turning into colon cancer. Precancerous polyps (adenomas and serrated polyps) could become cancerous; other types of polyps (hyperplastic, inflammatory) do not.
By performing colonoscopies, we can find these precancerous polyps and remove them before they have a chance to transition into a cancer. The development of more than 75-90% of colorectal cancer can be avoided through early detection and removal of precancerous polyps. If people took advantage of screening tests, the vast majority of deaths from colon cancer could be prevented.
This also allows us to determine who needs a closer eye on them than the average population. Instead of colonoscopies every 10 years, some people need colonoscopies every 3-5 years depending on the number and size of polyps that are present.
BUT I HAVE NO SYMPTOMS, DO I REALLY NEED THIS NOW?
Precancerous polyps usually cause NO SYMPTOMS, and removal of these polyps prevents colon cancer.
Colon cancers found in patients with symptoms are more advanced and less likely to be cured.
Colon cancers found in people WITHOUT symptoms are not as advanced and are more frequently cured.
The biggest risk factor for developing colorectal cancer is aging.
BUT NO ONE IN MY FAMILY HAS COLON POLYPS OR COLON CANCER, ARE YOU SURE I REALLY NEED TO DO THIS?
Although having a family history of colon polyps or colon cancer increases your risk of developing colon cancer, 75% of colon cancers DO NOT have a family history.