In 2019, doctors saw more than 100,000 new cases of colon cancer and nearly 50,000 new cases of rectal cancer. Sadly, colon and rectal cancer combined (often referred to as colorectal cancer) are expected to cause more than 50,000 deaths in 2019.
Many may laugh at or shrug off the idea of a colonoscopy, but it’s a critical exam that every adult should undergo regularly.
That said, let’s dig into the question that you might be asking yourself: When, really, should you start getting colonoscopies?
When to get checked for colon cancer
The American Cancer Society recommends that everyone start regular colon cancer screenings at age 45, if they’re at regular risk. Regular risk means that:
- You don’t have a personal or family history of colon cancer or other colon complications
- You don’t have a personal history of inflammatory bowel conditions
- You don’t have a history of colon cancer-related syndromes
- You don’t have a personal history of radiation (X-rays or other tests) to your abdomen
If you’re in good health and at regular risk, you should continue to get screenings every 10 years through age 75. After that, talk with your doctor about the need to continue.
If you’re not at regular risk — meaning, any of the above situations apply to you — you should start screenings earlier. Also, if you have a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) who has or had colon cancer, you should get screened 10 years before the age at which your family member was diagnosed. For example, if your father received a colon cancer diagnosis at age 42, you should start getting colonoscopies at age 32.
You should get screened more often than every 10 years if you have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer.
The doctors at Desert West Surgery perform colonoscopies to screen for colon cancer. We have three offices in the Las Vegas area to serve you.
How do colonoscopies work?
Let’s be honest: Colonoscopies aren’t the most pleasant medical exam, but they’re necessary. A colonoscopy allows your doctor to view the inside of your colon and rectum to check for any abnormalities. Your doctor does this by inserting a colonoscope (a flexible tube with a tiny camera attached) into your rectum.
You prepare for a colonoscopy by following a special diet and taking a laxative before your appointment. One of our Desert West Surgery experts provides you with detailed instructions before your screening. Depending on your results, your doctor recommends the best time interval before you need to come back for another screening, or they may order more tests or procedures.
Colon cancer signs to pay attention to
Generally, if you’re young and symptomless, there’s no need to get a colonoscopy. But if you’re younger — or any age, really — and have any of these symptoms, you may want to see your doctor for at least a preliminary evaluation.
Signs and symptoms of colon cancer include:
- A change in bowel habits that lasts several days — persistent diarrhea not explained by food poisoning, for example
- Feeling as though you need to use the restroom, but not feeling relieved by doing so
- Blood in your stool
- Unusually dark-colored stool
- Unexplained weakness or fatigue
- Unintended weight loss
Other symptoms, such as chronic and painful bloating, abdominal cramping, and gas may also be signs of colon cancer. If you experience any of these things without a clear explanation, such as a sudden change in your diet, you should seek medical attention as soon as you can.
If you’re ready to begin colon cancer screenings or are having issues that might be related to colon cancer, call the Desert West Surgery location nearest you to book an appointment.