There is probably no other medical procedure that makes patients as squeamish as a colonoscopy.
"There's a taboo about colonoscopy, it's a very invasive test so people are afraid of that," said gastroenterologist Dr. Aldo Russo.
However, that test is the gold standard because it is one of the only screening test that can actually prevent colon cancer.
"Not only can you find pre-curser lesions that can develop into cancer, but you can remove them at the time of the procedure," said Russo.
Each year there will be an estimated 140,000 new cases of colon and rectal cancer, and more than 50,000 deaths. The earlier the cancer is detected, the more curable.
During a colonoscopy, doctors insert a camera tipped probe into the colon to detect and remove polyps, which can lead to cancer. The patient is sedated during procedure.
Doctors recommend getting a colonoscopy done every ten years starting at age 50. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, or you suffer from certain conditions like Crohn's disease or Inflammatory Bowel Disease, you may need to begin screenings earlier or more frequently.
The good news, is that it seems people are listening.
"Especially here in Louisiana, we know that from 2006-2010 we know that there was a significant decrease in the number of newly diagnosed colon cancers," said Russo.
Russo also says that tests are always improving and developing. For example, in recent years the prep for the colonoscopy has gotten easier, with the amount of liquid a patient must drink broken into smaller doses spread out over several hours.
There are also several less invasive screening tests, including CT Scans and stool and blood tests.
Discuss your risk factors and family history with your doctor to determine your best options.
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
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