Did you know colon cancer is the third most common diagnosed cancer in both men and women in the United States? This diagnosis can be prevented with a screening tool called a colonoscopy. According to the American Cancer Society recommendations, every person should be screened for colon cancer at the age of 45 and depending on your risk factors and family history, screenings should continue until the age of 75. This new recommendation from the American Cancer Society was just released in 2018, with the previous recommendation of starting screenings at the age of 50. There are several risk factors which may require a person to get regular screenings at an earlier age. Talk with your doctor about your risk factors and what options you have for a colon cancer screening.
What is a Colonoscopy?
One way in which colon cancer can be detected early is with a procedure called a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a test performed that visualizes the entire length of the colon and rectum using a colonoscope. A colonoscope is a flexible tube with a camera attached on the end to give direct visualization of the colon and rectum. An anesthesia medicine is typically administered through an IV during the procedure to help relax the patient and most of the time sleep during the procedure. The procedure takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on what the doctor needs to remove or exam further. There is a pre-procedure assessment and a post procedure recovery from anesthesia that is required which gives a patient’s total time to be in the procedure area around 2 to 2 ½ hours.
Small instruments can be used to take out any polyps or biopsies that need to be removed and sent to a lab for further examination under a microscope. You will get results of this exam within a week of your procedure. Before your doctor can perform this test, a special prep must be taken to clean out the colon so your doctor can visualize all parts of the colon. This prep is usually taken the night before with certain dietary restrictions. A pre-op nurse and other staff help educate the patient on these dietary and medication restrictions and how to take the prep properly to get the best results.
What could be discovered during a screening colonoscopy?
One discovery could be a polyp. A colon polyp is a small clump of cells that forms on the lining of the colon. Most colon polyps are harmless, however over time, some colon polyps can develop into colon cancer, which is often fatal when found in its later stages. The doctor will also be looking at the lining of the colon for any abnormalities or discoloration. Biopsies can be taken of these abnormalities to look for any potential disease processes that can be treated.
The best prevention for colon cancer is regular screening colonoscopies. Here at Windom Area Health, we can perform screening colonoscopies close to home without the hassle of traveling out of town. Talk to your physician today and ask if you are in need of a screening colonoscopy. To learn more, contact our surgical services at 507-831-0652.
Blog Written By: Laura Penner, Surgery Manager