“Colon cancer strikes 5-6% of the population, this can be detected and prevented with screening colonoscopy,” says McLeod Gastroenterologist* Dr. Davinderbir Pannu. “The risk of colon cancer increases as we age. Everyone should have a colonoscopy starting at age 50 to detect growths or polyps in the colon that are precancerous and that over a period of 10 to 20 years can become cancer.”
A UNIQUE SCREENING TEST
“The problem with colon cancer is that symptoms don’t develop until it is an advanced stage,” notes Dr. Pannu. “And when it is detected at that stage, the treatment is major surgery or chemotherapy. The colonoscopy is the only test able to prevent or detect early cancer.“
THOSE AT HIGHER RISK
Besides age, there are other risk factors that may warrant a colonoscopy before age 50, according to Dr. Pannu.
“Once a colonoscopy is performed, the interval between examinations is based on the number of polyps, type of polyps and how advanced the polyps are,” says Dr. Pannu. “So, the interval between colonoscopies sometimes is three years. Sometimes it’s 10 years. It really depends on what the initial colonoscopy shows.”
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
For a screening colonoscopy, you can call a gastroenterologist to schedule your procedure. Or your personal physician can refer you to a gastroenterologist for this important cancer screening test.
*NOTE: A gastroenterologist diagnoses and treats conditions affecting the digestive system, including conditions that involve the esophagus, the stomach, the small and the large intestine, gallbladder, liver, pancreas and the colon.