Who is at risk for colorectal cancer? While you may not hear as much about this type of cancer, it is ranked as the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States today.
While colorectal cancers have most commonly appeared in men and women over the age of 50, recent studies indicate an alarming rise in the diagnosis of young people in their 20’s and 30’s, particularly those born in the year 1990 or later.
Factors contributing to increased risk of colorectal cancer include obesity, inactivity and sedentary lifestyle, smoking, as well as those with a family history of the disease. Certain diets high in red or processed meats further indicate an increased risk of cancerous cells developing in the colon or rectum.
If you have any of the increased risk factors above, talk to your doctor about your screening options to prevent colorectal cancer. Those who develop colon or rectal cancer later in life often show no symptoms – and with regular screening, a precancerous polyp can be caught and removed before it manifests into cancer. A colonoscopy may not sound pleasant, but it can save your life.
If you are due for a colonoscopy but have never been screened previously, here is what to expect:
- The day before your scheduled colonoscopy, you will be instructed to follow a special diet to prepare and clean out your colon, as well as take a laxative or use an enema. You will be advised not to eat after midnight prior to your examination.
- At your visit, you will be put under sedation (usually recommended by your physician) or provided with a strong oral sedative, as well as a pain medication in case of any possible discomfort.
- In a gown, you will lie down on your side with your knees drawn up to your chest, and the doctor will insert a long colonoscope with a small light and camera into your rectum. The scope will fill air into your colon in order to provide the physician with a better view of the entire region.
- Your doctor may wish to take biopsies or remove any suspicious polyps, which will typically be done during the procedure via thin instruments inserted within the colonoscope. The entire procedure typically lasts 20 minutes to one hour.
- Following your colonoscopy, it is normal to feel bloating, pass gas, or experience some discomfort. A small amount of blood may be visible in your initial bowel movements, but you should return to normal after a day or two.
While it may seem unpleasant, it is a routine procedure yielding highly successful results to keep you cancer free. So what’s the silver lining at the end of a (very long and dark) tunnel? You should be all set for another 10 years, when you are due for your next probe.
Need more convincing? Watch actor Ryan Reynolds talk about his recent experience with a life saving colonoscopy.
For more information on what to expect, visit mayoclinic.org.
Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic provides medical care to eligible patients, just like any family practitioner or internist – but it is free. We serve uninsured adults living at or below 200 % of the Federal poverty level who live or work on Johns, Wadmalaw or James Islands. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.