If you've been avoiding a colonoscopy, here are some answers to common questions that may convince you to give it a try, courtesy of Dr. Louis Saco, a board-certified gastroenterologist at Watson Clinic.
Q: Why should I get one?
A: Colonoscopy can find cancer—the earlier the better. It can also find polyps, which are abnormal growths that can become cancer. With colonoscopy, if you get the polyps out, you eliminate the risk for colon cancer. It also gives your doctor immediate, direct access to polyps so they can be removed right away. That's not true with other colon cancer screening methods, which all require a follow-up colonoscopy if polyps or other problems are found.
Q: When should I be screened?
A: Screening usually starts at age 50. People at higher risk, including those with a family history of colon cancer, should start at age 40 or 10 years earlier than the age at which their parent or sibling was diagnosed with colon cancer. Due to enhanced risk, African Americans should start colonoscopy screening at age 45.
Q: How do I prepare?
A: The day before the colonoscopy, you will be on a clear liquid diet and take a preparation that helps clean the colon by multiple bowel movements over several hours. Patients feel that it is not hard to do if they follow the directions given to them by their doctor.
Q: How's it done?
A: The patient is given intravenous sedation so that hey can comfortably sleep through the entire exam. A flexible tube with a light on the end of it is inserted into the colon and travels its entire length. Your doctor watches the procedure on a high-definition monitor screen. Any polyps found can be removed using delicate tools inserted through the colonoscope.