It’s easy to look at a full calendar and think there isn’t time to take care of yourself - especially as the end of the year approaches. You promise yourself that once things are less hectic, you’ll make all those appointments you’ve been putting off. However, there are many reasons you shouldn’t put off a colonoscopy.
Colon cancer affects about 1 in 20 people in the United States and is being diagnosed at a considerably younger age over the past few years. Maybe you’ve put off getting a colonoscopy because you’ve had questions or concerns, let us answer them now!
What are Symptoms of Colon Cancer?
Unfortunately, the beginning symptoms of colon cancer can be relatively mild and may be confused with other gastrointestinal conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). More severe symptoms of colon cancer don’t normally appear until the disease is in its later stages. Survival rates drop sharply in the later stages of colorectal cancer, so it’s important to note any symptoms and report them to your doctor as soon as possible if they persist. Some beginning colon cancer symptoms include:
- Diarrhea (not at the same time typically as constipation)
- Changes in bowel habits
- Sudden, unexplained weight loss
- Abdominal cramping
- Blood in the stool
- Narrowing of the stool
It’s easy to see why these symptoms are often mistaken for other conditions, but if you feel that you have several of these symptoms with regularity, it’s a good idea to let your doctor know.
The Importance of Colonoscopy
While a colonoscopy is not considered surgery, finding precancerous polyps and removing them during a colonoscopy is the single best method to prevent colon cancer. Studies confirm that screenings save lives, including this study that shows a 61% reduction in risk of death due to colon cancer in patients receiving colonoscopies at the prescribed intervals. Because of statistics like these, many public health officials advocate for colonoscopies over other forms of testing, such as at-home screening.
Who Should Get a Colonoscopy?
The American Cancer Society (ACS) published new colon cancer screening guidelines, recommending that patients of average-risk begin screening at age 45. Patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or those with personal history of colorectal cancers should be screened based on their individual risk factors.
If you have a family history of polyps or colon cancer, you should share this information with your doctor. This may qualify you for earlier screening, as this family history puts you in a high-risk category. Also, those of African-American and Ashkenazi Jewish descent have a higher risk of colon cancer. After your first colonoscopy screening, your doctor will inform you how often you should be tested.
What are Prep Options?
Maybe you've held off because you've imagined drinking a gallon of unpleasant liquid followed by a million trips to the bathroom. We have several prep options, including lower-dose regimens and better-tasting liquids, and would love to talk about which is best for you.
Will I have to Pay for a Colonoscopy?
Typically, the procedure is covered by insurance, and there are no out-of-pocket costs. However, it’s a good idea to check with your insurance company prior to booking the appointment. Not all insurances have caught up with the updated guidelines as of 2020.
There is still time to make an appointment this year - make sure you are not leaving any insurance benefits on the table. If you need more information about colon cancer, want to know more about the procedure or the risk factors, book an appointment with Carolina Digestive Health Associates today. We offer eight convenient office locations to provide you with the best of care.