When you think of colonoscopies, you probably think of the necessary steps you have to take before you actually get the procedure. A colonoscopy is nothing more than a preventative procedure to check the health of your large intestine. Like most medical procedures and check-ups, you don’t need this procedure until you reach a certain age. Based on your predisposition to certain diseases in the colon, your doctor at Batash Medical in New York, NY will determine if this procedure is the right decision for you.
What Is a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a preventative procedure where doctors use a flexible scope to examine the lining of your colon. Colonoscopies are used as health screenings to assess the state of your colon, which includes your large intestine and rectum. These procedures provide your doctor with images of your colon.
If your doctor finds a growth or abnormality, they take a biopsy of the area for further examination. After the procedure, your doctor will speak with you about how the procedure went and if they took any samples. Each procedure only lasts 30- to 60-minutes.
There are a variety of factors that can affect when and how often you should receive a screening of your colon lining. Your medical history of colon cancer in your family and your lifestyle choices play a large part in determining your risk level in regards to colorectal cancer. You should not be concerned if your doctor schedules this procedure for you, especially if you’re over 40 years of age. Overall, colonoscopies will help doctors determine if there’s anything you should be made aware of.
Who Needs a Colonoscopy?
Colonoscopies are standard procedures everyone has at least once in their lifetime. Once you reach the age of 45, it’s recommended as a best practice. Sometimes, your doctor will recommend that you receive one after the age of 50, but there are a lot of factors that go into determining if this type of health screening would benefit you and your doctor. Throughout this article, we’ll go over a handful of factors that could influence when you get a colonoscopy and how frequently you should receive one after your initial procedure.
How Do Doctors Determine If I’m at Risk?
When you go in for your annual checkup with your doctor, they review your health by looking over a wide range of issues. Typically, this includes checking your ears, eyes, spine and other major organs. If you have a genetic predisposition to a particular disease, your doctor will pay close attention to it as you age.
If your mom had breast cancer, for example, your doctor would most likely recommend a mammogram before or right at the recommended age. The same goes for colonoscopies. This is one of many reasons why you should inform your doctor of any changes or illnesses in your family tree.
Colon Cancer Risk Factors
Colon cancer, like other forms of cancer, can affect anyone, regardless of your lifestyle or eating habits. However, there are a handful of lifestyle choices that could put you at a higher risk for colorectal cancer:
- Physical inactivity
- Heavy alcohol use
On top of these lifestyle choices, you could be deemed a higher risk candidate for colon cancer based on your health history and genetic history. Your doctor will ask you about your family history to try and find any potential precursors that would influence your risk for developing colon cancer. In addition to your lifestyle choices, there are a handful of familial reasons why your doctor would pay closer attention to your colon than an average patient.
Familial Colon Cancer Risk Factors
These are just a few of the items your doctor could look at when attempting to determine your likelihood of developing the disease. By scheduling this screening every few years or every 10 years, your doctor has a better chance of catching colon cancer early. These screenings also give you peace of mind surrounding your health. Depending on these factors, your doctor may recommend more frequent colonoscopies to make sure you’re healthy.
- Your Age
- Your risk of colon cancer increases as you get older, which makes it a common cancer in individuals over the age of 50. Your doctor will recommend scheduling colonoscopies at different stages throughout your life. Talk with your doctor to receive more detailed information about when and how often you should schedule this procedure.
- Your History of Colorectal Polyps or Cancer
- By determining if you have any predetermined issues or history of colon polyps or cancer, your doctor can alter your current checkup routine. If you’re unsure about your family’s history with colon cancer or polyps, talk to your doctor.
- We can help you determine the best way to gather that information. The more information your doctor has about your health and potential health concerns, the easier it is to recommend treatments or lifestyle changes that will truly help you.
- Your History With Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- If you have an inflammatory condition that isn’t handled correctly, you could be at risk to develop cancer later on in life. By leaving an inflammatory condition untreated, you put yourself at risk in many ways. If you think you have an inflammatory problem within your bowel or intestines, talk to your doctor. By addressing the issue, you can successfully stay on top of your health.
- Your Family History of Colorectal Cancer
- If members of your immediate family have or had colon cancer, you are at an increased risk to develop the disease. Depending on how closely related your family member is to you, your doctor will recommend more frequent colonoscopies to catch any growths or issues early. It’s important to provide your doctor with all of the information you can surrounding your health, so we can do our very best to keep you healthy.
- Your Race and Ethnic Background
- Unfortunately, there are particular races and ethnicities that are predisposed to developing colorectal cancer. By erring on the side of caution, your doctor can help you determine if there are small changes you need to make to prevent any colon issues or cancer. Your doctor will recommend the best way forward depending on your current bill of health.
What Does It Mean If I’m at Risk?
Every doctor is constantly checking for signs that you could be at risk for any number of diseases. When it comes to colon cancer, there are a variety of factors that your doctor assesses to determine your risk level. Your doctor will recommend certain preventative procedures if you’re designated as an at-risk or average-risk individual. This risk level will help your doctor decide when and how often you should receive this procedure.
If your family has history of colorectal cancer, your doctor will most likely recommend you receive an initial procedure between 40 and 50 years old. Based on the results, they’ll alter your current schedule for checkups and preventative procedures. A regular routine that couples colonoscopies with an ultrasound or other imaging scripts will allow you to stay on top of any potential issues.
If you are deemed an at-risk individual in regards to colon cancer, your doctor will recommend what they see as the best way forward. This can vary drastically between individuals since no two cases of colon cancer are the same.
I’m at Risk—Now What?
Being at risk only means that you and your doctor need to keep a closer eye on your colon health. It does not mean that you’re going to get colorectal cancer or have other health issues because of your colon. By understanding what to expect when you’re considered at risk, you can take charge of your health.
This in-depth screening of your colon is not the only thing doctors use to stay on top of your colon health. They can recommend lifestyle changes, routine check-ups, stool samples, and anything else that they think would help you keep your colon healthy.
Colonoscopies give doctors a more in-depth look at the current state of your large intestine and rectum. During this procedure, doctors will check the lining of your colon and biopsy for any lumps, growths, or polyps they find during the procedure. The potential to take a biopsy based on what a doctor finds is the exact reason why you have to prepare before going in for your appointment. Not all colonoscopies turn into actual procedures, but it’s easier for a doctor to biopsy something on the spot.
How Often Should I Get a Colonoscopy?
The frequency of a colonoscopy varies based on your history, health and other factors. The general rule of thumb recommends that an average risk individual should be scheduled for this procedure once every 10 years after you reach 50 years of age.
For at-risk patients, this general rule changes drastically. If you have an immediate family member with colon cancer or inflammatory disease, it’s recommended that you receive more regular screenings, regardless of your age.
You should receive frequent screenings if you have two immediate family members that have had colorectal cancer, regardless of their age. If your doctor finds abnormal growths or polyps during your initial screening, it’s recommended that you receive another procedure in three years. If you’ve previously had a screening where a growth was found, but had a second procedure where you received a clean bill of health, you should schedule a follow-up procedure within the next five years.
These recommendations can vary from person to person based on your health risks and current lifestyle choices.
I’m Over 60 Years Old—Do I Need to Worry About Colon Cancer?
You shouldn’t be overly concerned about your potential to get a particular disease. Our doctors are here to help you live your best life. By determining any potential risks you have surrounding colon cancer, we can be more prepared and approach your health more directly. As you get older, your risk for colon cancer increases, but if you catch it quickly your risk of serious complications is very small.
Colorectal cancer is a very common cancer for those over 50 years of age, which is why your doctor will use colonoscopies and other procedures to proactively stay on top of your colon health.
If your results are clean after your initial procedure, you probably won’t need another procedure for the next 10 years. Your doctor will continue to recommend colonoscopies based on your health and family history. Generally, your doctor will stop recommending colonoscopies after you turn 80, since the potential risks of putting you under may outweigh the risk a potential growth in your colon would cause in relation to your health.
Can Colon Cancer Be Prevented?
Everyone wants to know how to prevent terrible diseases like colon cancer. There are lifestyle changes that you can make to prevent illnesses, but can all cancers be prevented? There are no quick fixes or magic drugs to prevent cancers from happening. However, there are things that you can do to decrease your risk of getting colon cancer.
This procedure is used as a screening to look for any signs you could have colon cancer. That’s why your doctor will recommend scheduling colonoscopies to determine if there’s anything you need to worry about. The reason colonoscopies are scheduled roughly every 10 years is because that is approximately how long it takes for abnormal cells to develop into colon cancer growths.
No growth or cancer does not develop overnight. When it comes to living a healthy life and potentially preventing cancers and illnesses down the road, there are a few things you can do:
- Become More Physically Active
- There are a lot of concerns and health risks that come with having an inactive lifestyle. By adding more exercise to your daily and weekly routine, you can enjoy all the benefits that come with regular exercise and decrease your risk of experiencing health concerns because of your weight.
- You don’t have to immediately start exercising rigorously. By simply walking to the grocery store or biking through the park, you can decrease your risk for harmful diseases and cancers.
- Eat Healthier
- Everyone knows that you should eat healthier, but it truly has the ability to affect your health from the inside out. By eating healthier, you’ll be able to exercise more efficiently and lose weight. All of these factors play a role in your risk level for catching certain diseases or illnesses. You can take charge of your health by making better decisions when it comes to your food.
- You don’t have to only eat salads or cut out all the processed foods you love. It’s all about balance. By sometimes switching a side of fries for a cup of fruit or wings with grilled chicken, you can eat healthier without sacrificing everything you love. Small changes can make a big difference, especially when it comes to your health.
- Quit Smoking
- There have been countless studies and PSA’s explaining the problems with smoking tobacco. The best way to reduce your risk for diseases like lung cancer and colon cancer is to quit smoking. Tobacco does not have any health benefits that make smoking cigarettes or e-cigarettes beneficial.
- Fight Inflammation
- Inflammation is not your friend. If you are predisposed to an inflammatory condition, talk to your doctor about the best ways to keep the inflammation under control. Inflammation is a sign of irritation. By handling potential causes for irritation, you can decrease inflammation in your entire body. Talk to your doctor to determine if taking an anti-inflammatory medication would benefit your health on a daily basis.
The Bottom Line
Your doctor is here to help you continue to stay healthy. If you have any concerns that need to be monitored, we’re here to help with that, too. By understanding your family history and potential risk surrounding colon cancer, you can stay ahead of any potential complications. This particular medical procedure is used as a preventative health screening for your large intestine and rectum. Every adult over the age of 50 should receive this screening, since colon cancer is very common as you get older.
If you are an at-risk individual and have family that’s been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, your doctor may recommend scheduling this procedure every three to five years. Just because your doctor designates you as at-risk, however, does not mean that you will develop colon cancer. There are also lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer. Your doctor will pay close attention to any aspect of your health that could cause you problems down the road.
To learn more about your potential risk for colon cancer, visit your doctor at Batash Medical in New York, NY today.