According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. The CDC stated that more than 149,000 Americans were diagnosed with the disease and 50,000 died of it in 2008. Medical experts believe colonoscopy screenings could have prevented more than 60 percent of those deaths.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force on Screening for Colorectal Cancer and American Cancer Society recommends a colonoscopy screening at the age of 50 with a repeat of the screening every 10 years. However, if you are in high risk group, your physician may recommend a colonoscopy earlier.
More than 90 percent of colon cancer cases occur in people over 50 years of age. Also, the risk of colon cancer increases with age.
A gastroenterologist performs a colonoscopy at a medical facility equipped to handle potential medical complications. On average, there are complications in one out of every 400 colonoscopies. Complications may include bleeding, colon perforation, infection, abdominal pain, or a cardiovascular event.
Two days before the procedure, your health care provider will give you instructions on how to cleanse your intestines. This will include laxatives, enemas and a change in diet. You will not be able to eat solids for two to three days before the procedure. Also, inform your doctor immediately if you are currently taking medication for other health issues, as he or she will instruct you on the best way to proceed.
Prior to the colonoscopy, you will receive a sedative and pain reliever. You will lie on your left side with your knees brought up towards your chest.
During a colonoscopy, a thin flexible camera scope is inserted into the rectum. The camera offers a direct view of the entire colon. The camera looks for growths, also known as polyps, which can become cancerous. It is believed a precancerous growth can take 10 years to become cancerous. Adenomatous polyps are one of the causes of most colorectal cancers. During the screening, the clinician will remove polyps and test them for cancer.