Let’s be straight. No one is excited to get a colonoscopy. But it is one of those necessary health screenings all adults over 45 should schedule regularly, on the advice of their doctor. In 2018, the American Cancer Society updated its recommendation that all should have the test at age 45 because there was an increasing trend of younger adults being diagnosed with colorectal cancer, long considered a disease of older generations.
Additionally, consideration for a patient’s medical and family history may indicate they require a test earlier in life. If a patient has issues like lower gastrointestinal bleeding, chronic diarrhea or abdominal pain they may also require a colonoscopy at any age.
Here’s the point: a routine colonoscopy could absolutely save your life.
If a polyp is found early enough, it can be removed during the colonoscopy – possibly saving the patient from the spread of colorectal cancer. Keeping up with scheduled screenings is your opportunity to beat cancer before it spreads. Most patients will be asked to return for routine screenings every 10 years, unless they have a family history of colorectal cancer, or a prior history of findings in previous screenings.
Let’s say Joe turns 50 this year. He has no gastrointestinal concerns or symptoms. Why should he voluntarily schedule an unpleasant procedure and take time off work – especially during COVID-19?
“Elective outpatient procedures, such as a screening colonoscopy, are considered safe given the current status of COVID-19 in Illinois. NCH and the Illinois Department of Public Health continually and vigorously monitor this scenario,” says Benjamin VanCura, M.D., a gastroenterologist with NCH Medical Group. “Under the guidance of federal and state public health agencies, we have instituted a number of extra precautions in light of COVID-19. These include use of extra PPE and social distancing throughout the GI lab.”
While home tests are available, Dr. VanCura still believes the benefits of a colonoscopy outweigh the COVID-19 risk. “Colonoscopy is considered the gold standard for colon cancer screening because it is the most sensitive test at detecting cancer and colon polyps.”
Others who have had their routine colonoscopies will tell you that the actual procedure is a breeze, and that the worst part is the cleansing that must be done ahead of time to prepare the GI tract for the test.
Dr. VanCura has some tips to help with the prep, “Keep the prep cold in the refrigerator. Drink the liquid through a straw and have a lemon or hard candy ready to suck on after you consume the liquid.”
If you are around 50 years old and you haven’t had a colonoscopy yet, or you are experiencing gastrointestinal issues, talk to your primary care physician about scheduling a colonoscopy. Learn more about colorectal cancer screening.