A colonoscopy is a diagnostic test used to screen for colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is one of the most dangerous and common types of cancer. Unfortunately, not enough people are getting proper screenings for colorectal cancer. Screening and early detection can lower the mortality rate. In 2008, approximately one third of the people diagnosed with colorectal cancer died from this disease. How often is a colonoscopy recommended?
The colonoscopy allows the physician to examine the lining of the large intestines. The physician looks for signs of abnormal growths such as tumors or colon polyps. A colonoscopy can also find ulcers and bleeding in the intestines. A biopsy may be done to examine a sample of the tissue in the laboratory.
For people without high risk of colon cancer, a colonoscopy every ten years beginning at the age of fifty is often recommended. People with high risk factors for colon cancer need colonoscopies before the age of fifty and more frequently than every ten years. Risk factors for colon cancer include a family history of colorectal cancer or other colon cancers, a medical history of inflammatory bowel disease like colitis, a history of colon polyps or other intestinal abnormalities.
If the person has a family history of colorectal cancer, the doctor may recommend colonoscopies beginning at the age of forty. The person may need to have a colonoscopy every five years. Depending on the type of colon cancer, the physician may recommend that the colonoscopies begin as early as age ten.
If a person has had a polyp removed, the physician may order a colonoscopy a few years after the colonoscopy. The physician may recommend colonoscopies to be repeated every five years. A person with inflammatory bowel disease needs to have frequent colonoscopies. A physician may suggest colonoscopies to be done every year or every two years.
There are some possible complications of colonoscopies. A colonoscopy can cause bleeding that can be serious in some cases. Infection, abdominal pain, and a perforated colon are other possible complications. People with heart disease should be aware that there is a risk of a cardiovascular complication. People concerned with the risk of complications should discuss these with their doctors. If necessary, other screening methods may be used.
Generally, routine colonoscopies are not recommended after the age of eighty-five. Some physicians stop routine colonoscopy screenings at the age of seventy-six. Others continue to suggest screenings up until the age of eighty-five.