Colon Cancer Screening
Screening Saves Lives
Colorectal cancer usually starts from growths, called polyps, in the colon or rectum. A polyp is a growth that should not be there. Over time, some polyps can turn into cancer and potentially spread to other parts of the body. Fortunately, screening tests can find polyps, so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screening tests can also find colorectal cancer early, and when found early, the chance of being cured is good.
There are several different screening tests that can be used to find polyps or colorectal cancer. One is a colonoscopy. For some, hearing the word colon - oscopy can incite a variety of reactions from embarrassment, fear of the unknown, fear of the prep work involved, to the possible discomfort they think they’ll feel.
Knowledge is Power
The best way to overcome fear of something is to arm yourself with knowledge. You’ll likely feel more comfortable about having a colonoscopy once you learn about what to expect and how to prepare. Knowledge helps demystify the process and removes the fear of the unknown. Your doctor is a great resource, so be sure to ask all your questions and share your fears.
What to Expect When Preparing For a Colonoscopy
While nobody thinks of a colonoscopy as fun, it’s not as bad as you may think. To help you put things in perspective, it might help you to keep in mind that a day or so of discomfort is a small price to pay if it saves your life.
Emptying the contents of the colon is key for a successful colonoscopy. If the bowel prep isn’t up to par, polyps and abnormalities can be missed, the procedure may take longer, or the whole process may need to be repeated or rescheduled (meaning another round of bowel prep).
A day or so before your exam, you will begin by having only clear liquids. This will be followed by a special drink or medication that will help fully empty the colon. During this time, you’ll want to stay close to the bathroom.
How is a colonoscopy performed?
You will be given medication to help you feel relaxed and comfortable during the exam. You will likely sleep throughout the procedure and won’t have much memory of it. Your doctor will look for any abnormal tissue or polyps using a thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope. If needed, your doctor can remove any abnormal growths and collect tissue samples at this time.
A colonoscopy usually takes 30 to 45 minutes with an hour or two for recovery. You’ll need someone to drive you home, so be sure to plan ahead. Your doctor will tell you when you can resume your normal diet and activities.
Remember, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about having a colonoscopy – your doctor and nurses perform many of these procedures each year. And there’s nothing to be embarrassed about when taking care of your health!
Schedule a Screening
If you're 50 or older or have a family history of colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor about when you should begin screening for colorectal cancer.
When it’s time to schedule a colonoscopy, look no further than WCHN. Our Digestive Diseases Centers have the latest technology to ensure you get the right diagnosis the first time, and our board-certified GI doctors specialize in cancer prevention. Learn more here: