The Colon is the last organ of the digestive system. It can also be referred to as the large intestine, and it runs from the small intestine to the back passage. A colonoscopy is a procedure used to inspect the colon. The colon is a cancer prone area, and a colonoscopy is used to detect ulcers, tumors, colon polyps, inflammation and bleeding before they become cancerous.
A thin tube called a colonoscope is used in this procedure. It’s flexible and can easily slide through the colon. During this procedure, tissue samples are collected from the colon and tests are done to detect colon polyps which develop into colorectal cancer if left untreated. Luckily, there are many methods of treatment for those who discover polyps during their colonoscopy.
A Colonoscopy procedure that detects cancer can potentially save your life. It is recommended by doctors and professional medical organizations all over the world over that all men and women start getting colonoscopy screenings at the age of 50. Research and testing has resulted in the realization that men are nearly twice as likely as women to have these types of cancerous growths. It was noticed that men started developing this condition earlier than women. Hence it is recommended that men start the screening at around 45 years of age.
Understand the risk factors
A very small percentage of men develop colorectal cancer and the only way to avoid falling into this minority is by having a regular colonoscopy. Several factors have been known to increase the chances of colorectal cancer:
- Family History. If some members of your immediate family developed colorectal cancer at a young age, you need to get screened.
- Age. Over 90% of colorectal cancer victims are above 50 years of age. It is extremely unlikely for men below 40 to develop colorectal cancer. The only way to be sure is to have a regular colonoscopy.
- Colorectal cancer history. If you’ve been previously diagnosed with colorectal cancer and it was removed, make sure to get regular check ups.
Sometimes life gets complicated and we tend to develop certain lifestyle habits that increase the risk of colorectal cancer. Some of these habits are:
- Alcohol. Bad drinking habits or excessive consumption of alcohol tends to increase risk.
- Smoking. This will increases the chances of developing colorectal cancer, as well as other cancers.
- Obesity. Being overweight has been known to cause a lot of health complications, including colorectal cancer. It was a known fact that obesity leads to complications like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart diseases which are all life threatening. Colon cancer is also a result of high levels of fat in the body.
How often men should undergo the procedure?
Screening for colon cancer through a colonoscopy, or any other method, is usually relevant at age 50 and above for the general population. But, it can begin at an earlier age in special cases like those who are affected by the aforementioned factors. If a family member was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at an early age, you should start screening 10 years earlier than the age at which that member was tested, or at 50 years old depending on which comes first.
The recommendation of screening frequency depends on the results of your current screening. If cancerous polyps are detected during your colonoscopy, your doctor may require repeating the procedure in 3-5 years. If your colon is free of complications, then the recommended period until your next colonoscopy is 10 years. If screening began at the age of 45, many more cases of colon cancer would be found in men as compared to women, hence the later screening age for women.
Only about half of people at least 50 years old who are recommended to have screenings actually get tested for colon cancer, according to the surveys conducted. These tumors take about a decade to develop. Hence the second screening should happen after about 10 years. Research has shown that men were at greater risk of having advanced colorectal cancers than women.
Preparing for your screening
Even though the colonoscopy exam is brief and painless, many people fear and avoid them. Roughly 40 percent of Americans for whom they are recommended are not getting colonoscopies done due to this fear. Yet colonoscopy is one of the most effective of all cancer prevention methods. Colonoscopy is the most reliable test, because doctors can visually study the entire colon and rectum for any uncommon growth through a thorough examination. In addition, a colonoscopy can not only detect cancers in their earliest and most treatable stages; it can also detect pre-cancerous growth patterns that can be removed during the exam before they become cancerous.
Be sure to stay home in the period prior to your screening, since you’ll need to use the bathroom regularly to make sure your colon is empty. You may be required to use special solutions to cleanse your colon and it may cause frequent diarrhea. During this time, higher fluid intake is recommended in the form of water, fruit juices to cleanse out the toxins as well as keep you hydrated.
The big picture
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer, and the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men, in the United States. Physician recommendation is the key to increasing screening rates. Improving physician communication and patient education programs require understanding what men know about colorectal cancer and screening.
It is important for doctors and other medical professionals to educate the masses about this condition and the growing concern by putting up advertisements about the importance of screening in their clinics, healthcare centers and hospitals. Once awareness is created, half the work is done. With greater numbers of people becoming informed about their health throughout the world, initiatives have come from the people themselves. Prevention is always better than treatment.