Did you know that of the 19% of Americans diagnosed with colon cancer, 75% are over the age of 50? The American Cancer Society advises everyone to get a colonoscopy beginning at the age of 50 in order to catch colon cancer in its early stages. The five-year survival prognosis for Stage I colon cancer is as high as 95% with the percentage dropping to a survival rate of less than 5% for Stage IV cancer.
A cancer caught early is easier to cure. Colon cancer is the second highest cancer killer, but it grows very slowly. It takes about 10 years for a colon polyp to grow into a cancer after which symptoms in the patient are bleeding, diarrhea, and bowel obstruction. After that, the cure rate falls dramatically because there is a better chance of metastasis to another organ.
Colon cancer deaths do not usually happen because of the primary cancer. Death happens when cancer cells break off from the main tumor and metastasize to other organs by traveling through the bloodstream. It can also be spread by the cancer breaking through the bowel wall and into the soft tissues next to the tumor.
Catching cancer in its early stages can prevent having to get a colostomy which is a surgical procedure done for a blocked or weakened bowel wall. Surgeons sometimes have to reroute the large intestine to the outside of the abdomen for feces evacuation. If this procedure is required, in some cases doctors can reattach the healthy ends of the colon after it has healed and there is minimal damage to the colon.
Your doctor will explain what you need to do to prepare for your colonoscopy by telling you what time to start the laxatives needed to clean the colon and what you can and cannot eat the day before the procedure. Because you may be drowsy after the procedure, your doctor will probably tell you to bring a friend or family member to drive you home when it is over.
A colonoscopy is not painful. The day of the procedure, your doctor can give you a cocktail of drugs to put you in a twilight state. This cocktail will allow you to feel no pain yet you will still be able to follow directions during the procedure. After the procedure is over, your nurse will give you enough time to wake up fully before allowing you go home.
Before you leave, your doctor will let you know how the procedure went and whether anything was found. Chances are that no cancer or polyps were found but if you did have polyps in your colon, more than likely your doctor removed them before you woke up. This removal will stop them from turning into cancer later.
Your life can be saved by this simple procedure that can be done in your doctor’s office, so now is the time to schedule yours. And a colonoscopy does not have to be repeated but once every five years unless you are advised differently by your doctor.