People put off having a colonoscopy for many reasons – they don’t want to deal with the preparation the procedure requires, they don’t want to be put under or are afraid of that the procedure is invasive. Some people don’t want to take a day off work and burden others with having to take care of them afterward while others worry about paying for the procedure.
The truth is that while colonoscopies are a little bit inconvenient, colon cancer is not just terribly inconvenient but also life threatening. Colon cancer is mostly treated with surgery and sometimes treated with surgery and chemotherapy. The cost – mentally, physically and financially – of colon cancer far outweighs the cost of a simple colonoscopy
Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that this year, doctors will diagnose:
· 101,420 new cases of colon cancer
· 44,180 new cases of rectal cancer
It’s expected to cause about 51,020 deaths during 2019.
The key to preventing colon cancer is screening and the best way to screen for colon cancer is through a colonoscopy, available at both Mercy Health – Urbana Hospital and Springfield Regional Medical Center.
I encourage my patients to schedule their screening colonoscopy according to current guidance:
· If you have no family history of colon cancer or polyps, you should start having colonoscopies at age 50. I had my colonoscopy before age 50 and it was a breeze.
· There is evidence that African Americans have a higher risk of developing colon cancer, so if you are African-American, please consider having a colonoscopy done at age 45.
If your colonoscopy checkup is clear, you do not have to repeat the screening for 10 years. If you have polyps removed, the typical timeframe to repeat the procedure is three to five years.
If you are uncomfortable with a colonoscopy, talk to your care provider about the procedure, ask if you are a candidate for alternative testing and how effective that testing is at colon cancer detection vs. a colonoscopy. It’s important to make an informed decision and act when it comes to cancer prevention.
Do you need a primary care provider? Call Mercy Health’s Find a Physician line at 937-523-9699 for help finding a Mercy Health primary care provider and scheduling your first visit.
Laura Willis is a family nurse practitioner with Mercy Health - Urbana Family Medicine and Pediatrics, located at 204 Patrick Ave., Urbana, Ohio 43078. For more information on her practice to schedule an appointment, please call 937-653-3445.