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Colorectal cancer is the the fourth most common type of cancer in men and women in the United States. (Source: cancer.gov). The good news is, colon cancer screening dramatically reduces your risk of dying from colon cancer.
Many colorectal cancers may be prevented through removal of polyps during recommended colonoscopies and reducing risk factors through lifestyle changes.
Regular colonoscopies can save your life.
What Is a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is an exam of the entire colon with a colonoscope — a slender, flexible tube with a camera on the end. Patients are given medication to help prevent pain and discomfort during the procedure. This medication allows you to relax and often causes you to forget the procedure.
If your doctor finds any small growths (polyps), they are removed. Polyps can eventually become cancerous. While not every colon polyp turns to cancer, almost every colon cancer begins as a small non-cancerous polyp. During a colonoscopy these polyps can be identified and removed or destroyed. If a polyp is large enough, tissue can be retrieved and sent for biopsy to determine the exact type of the polyp.
Screening generally involves a colonoscopy, but there are other effective and non-invasive methods available. Your doctor can answer your questions about the best screening method for you.
When Should I Get a Colonoscopy?
You should have your first colonoscopy at age 50 if you are at average risk for colon or rectal cancer — and at age 45 if you are African American. These guidelines are currently recommended by the American College of Gastroenterology.
It is important to know that several national organizations, including the American Cancer Society, recommend average risk people begin screening colonoscopies at age 45 instead of age 50. This is because studies show that rates of colorectal cancer among people younger than age 50 are increasing. You should have a conversation with your doctor about this; your doctor can help you make an informed decision.
If you are at average risk of colon or rectal cancer, and decide to start screening at age 45 rather than 50, we recommend you check with your insurance company regarding coverage before having a colonoscopy or other colorectal screening.
If you currently have worrisome symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. Concerning symptoms include:
- Rectal bleeding
- Change in bowel habits
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Unexplained weight loss
You may also need to be screened earlier if you have:
- A personal history of colon cancer
- A personal history of known hereditary inflammatory colon cancer bowel disease
- A family history of colon cancer
Schedule a Colonoscopy at a Convenient Screening Location
Talk with your primary care doctor about the colon cancer screening that is appropriate for you. Then call 414-805-3666 or 800-272-3666 to schedule your colonoscopy at any of our convenient screening locations. Some screening locations may require a referral from your doctor.
- Drexel Town Square Health Center, Oak Creek
- Froedtert Hospital, Milwaukee
- Froedtert Menomonee Falls Hospital
- Froedtert West Bend Hospital
- Moorland Reserve Health Center, New Berlin
- Sargeant Health Center, Milwaukee
- West Bend Surgery Center
Colonoscopy: What to Expect
Many people are afraid to get a colonoscopy, expecting it to be painful or embarrassing. Afterward, many are surprised to learn the procedure wasn’t as difficult as they expected. A little knowledge can go a long way to help you understand what it will be like and soothe any fears you may have about this important test.
Is a Colonoscopy Painful?
A colonoscopy is usually not painful. Almost all colonoscopies can be performed using “intravenous sedation” or “twilight sedation” in which you are very drowsy, but comfortable and still breathing on your own. The most common type of sedation also has a mild amnesiac effect, so most patients do not even remember the procedure. Your doctor can discuss with you the best form of sedation to suit your needs.
What Is the “Prep” for a Colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy prep is generally considered the most difficult part of the entire procedure. The good news? Once you’re done with the prep, the rest is easy. There are a variety of preparation methods for colonoscopy to rid your colon of feces. Often, a special liquid drink (of varying quantity) is used. A clean colon is essential to allow for a careful examination for polyps or other abnormalities. Your doctor can discuss and prescribe the most appropriate preparation method for you.
Why Aren't More People Getting Screened?
Screening compliance rates are influenced by many factors including:
- Lack of public awareness about colon cancer and of the benefits of regular screening
- Inconsistent promotion of screening by medical care providers
- Uncertainty among insurance providers and consumers about insurance benefits and limitations on covered benefits
- Characteristics of the screening procedures (e.g., imperfect tests, negative attitudes towards the screening procedures)
- Absence of social support for openly discussing and doing something about "the disease down there”