Let’s face it — the idea of getting a colonoscopy makes a lot
of people feel embarrassed, uncomfortable or anxious. That could be why
only one out of three adults has gotten the recommended screening for
colorectal cancer. Even though colorectal cancer is largely preventable,
it remains the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States
and in Iredell County.
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, highlighting prevention and
education. Colorectal cancers include cancer of the large intestine, also
called the colon, and the rectum. Experts at Iredell Health System are
helping to clear up some of the concerns people may have about colonoscopies.
Not everyone should wait until 50 to get a colonoscopy.
While the suggested age to begin colorectal cancer screening is typically
50 years old, African-American patients should begin screening for colorectal
cancer at age 45 rather than 50, according to recommendations from the
American College of Gastroenterology. That’s because of a high rate
Family history also plays a role in screening recommendations, according
to Chelsea Coley, Director of Oncology and Renal Services for Iredell
“If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, talk to your
gastroenterologist about possibly getting screened at an earlier age,”
said Coley. “You may need to have a colonoscopy at age 40 or earlier
if you have first degree relatives with colorectal cancer history or a
personal history with inflammatory bowel disease.”
Dr. Vivek M. Trivedi is a gastroenterologist with Piedmont Healthcare,
who treats patients at Iredell Memorial Hospital. Dr. Trivedi stressed
the importance of getting a colonoscopy to find adenomatous (precancerous)
polyps in order to prevent colon cancer.
“While there are other tests, colonoscopy is the gold standard in
preventing colorectal cancer,” said Dr. Trivedi. “At the time
of a colonoscopy, we can diagnose and remove precancerous polyps before
they become cancerous or we can detect and treat colon cancer at its earliest
stage, increasing a patient’s overall survival.”
Preparation is important.
“You’ll get a prescription from your doctor and you’ll
pick up a solution from the pharmacy,” said Coley. “The night
before your procedure you must drink the prep solution to have a clear
colon. If you don’t follow the prep directions from your provider,
your doctor will not be able perform the colonoscopy the next day. You
don’t want to start over again, so finish drinking the solution!”
“When you arrive at the hospital or the outpatient center,”
Coley continued, “the staff will prepare you for the colonoscopy
and put you under anesthesia. The doctor will use a small scope camera
to check your colon for any abnormalities. The actual procedure does not
take a long time, less than 30 minutes in many cases.”
If you are experiencing symptoms, contact your healthcare provider.
Just because you feel healthy, does not mean you are cancer free. Often
colon cancer does not cause symptoms in its earlier stages. If symptoms
do begin, they should not be ignored, no matter how old you are. A recent
study found colon cancer rates are increasing among people younger than
35 years of age.
“Those symptoms may be blood in your stool, new change in bowel habits,
stomach pains or cramps that do not go away, and you may lose a significant
amount of weight without trying,” said Coley. “Some people
lose 10 to 20 pounds in just a few weeks. Don’t brush those symptoms