Colon cancer screening involves reviewing your medical history to determine if you have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer, followed by a colonoscopy to see inside your colon and rectum. Colonoscopies should be performed every 10 years beginning at age 50, according to recommendations from the American Cancer Society, and every five years beginning at age 40 if you have risk factors, including a family history of colon cancer or polyps, fleshy growths that develop in the colon and which can lead to cancer in some cases.
No, in fact many people develop polyps, and very few are cancerous. Because polyps don't cause symptoms unless they grow large, having a colonoscopy is the best way to detect them when they're small and more easily treated.
Before having a colonoscopy, you'll need to fast and drink a special liquid or take pills to help empty your bowels completely. An IV will be used to administer sedation so you can be relaxed throughout the entire procedure. During the procedure, you'll lie on an exam table on your left side and the long, thin, flexible colonoscope will be passed through your anus and rectum, all the way through your large intestine. Air will be pumped into your colon to gently expand it and make it easier to see. A special camera at the end of the colonoscope will take video images as it moves through the colon, transmitting those images to a monitor where the doctor can view them. If a polyp or abnormal area is seen, the polyp can be removed or a tissue sample can be taken using special instruments designed to be used through the scope. The polyp or tissue sample will be sent to a lab for evaluation. Most colonoscopies take about a half hour to perform.
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