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Colonoscopy and Colon Cancer

illustration of large intestine or colonKishHealth System gastroenterologists want to ensure you have optimal digestive health. An essential part of that effort is the early detection of colon cancer and rectal cancer through colonoscopy.

If you are experiencing the following symptoms, make an appointment with a gastroenterologist at Kishwaukee Hospital or Valley West Hospital:

  • Change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea and constipation, lasting more than a few days
  • Blood in your stool
  • Frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, or cramps
  • Feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
  • Constant tiredness or weakness
  • Unexplained weight loss

These symptoms can be caused by conditions other than colon cancer. Do not hesitate to contact your physician to determine the exact cause.

What is a Colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy examines the large intestine (bowel), rectum, and anus and is done under monitored anesthesia, following a colon cleanse the day before prescribed by your physician. This colon cleanse is very important because it aides in the visual portion of the examination. Other tools are used during the procedure to diagnose or even treat a condition. During a colonoscopy, your doctor will remove any polyps, which will then be biopsied.

Do I Really Need a Colonoscopy?

The importance of early detection of colon cancer and rectal cancer cannot be overstated. There are several types of screening tools, but the American Cancer Society recommends the ones where both polyps and cancer can be detected.

Starting at age 50 for both men and women, The American Cancer Society guidelines are:

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years
  • Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years

If any of these tests are positive or if there is a family history of colorectal cancer, a colonoscopy should be done.

Am I at Risk for Colon Cancer?

Starting at age 50, the American Cancer Society recommends that you receive a colonoscopy every 10 years. Additionally, you should have the following tests every 5 years. If any of these tests are positive or if you have a family history of colorectal cancer, your gastroenterologist will order a colonoscopy:

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy
  • Double-contrast barium enema
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy)

Most cases of colorectal cancer start as polyps, or benign masses of cells in the lower intestine or rectum. You are at an increased risk of developing polyps (and eventually colon cancer) if you have:

  • A genetic predisposition for colorectal cancer
  • A personal or family history of polyps or colon cancer
  • Poor diet
  • An inactive lifestyle
  • Obesity
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)

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