Regular screenings, like colonoscopies, are key in preventing many colorectal cancers. Screenings can find diseases in people who show no symptoms, and may not even think they are sick at all. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women, and having a colonoscopy is your best form of prevention.
Why do people get colonoscopies?
A colonoscopy is a medical procedure where the doctor uses a thin, lighted tube and puts it through the anus and passes it up into the colon to look for abnormalities. Tissue can be taken from any areas of concerns, and if polyps (growth of tissue in the lining) are present, they can be removed.
Colonoscopies can be used as a screening method for detecting colorectal cancer. This is one of the best ways to prevent colorectal cancer. If cancer is found, it can be treated more promptly than if it hadn't been found. Colonoscopies may also be performed to find the cause of:
- bleeding from the rectum
- bloody stool
- abdominal pain
- unexplained bowel habit changes including long-lasting constipation or diarrhea
- polyps in the colon
- hyperplastic or adentomatous
A colonoscopy is an inside look into the rectum and colon which is why it’s a great method for prevention and diagnosing.
How often you should get a colonoscopy
The number of times, and how often, you should get a colonoscopy will largely be determined by your doctor. If you had a colonoscopy, and no issues were discovered, then your doctor may recommend another colonoscopy as much as ten years out. If you have a history of gastrointestinal issues, and/or risk factors for colorectal cancer, your doctor may recommend another colonoscopy five years out. If your previous colonoscopy indicated risk factors, or showed problem areas throughout your colon and rectum, your doctor may have you back for another one within one year.
Chances are you won’t have to worry about having a colonoscopy until you reach the risk factor ages for certain conditions like colorectal cancer. Once you have reached that risk factor age, or if you have a medical history of risk factors, you should consider talking with your doctor about scheduling a colonoscopy. From there on out, your doctor will help guide you through how often you should have one done.
Reading your colonoscopy results
Your physician will perform a colonoscopy to look for a certain medical issue. The results determine next steps. If the results are:
- POSITIVE: It usually means your doctor saw what they were looking for (or saw an indication of what they were looking for)
- NEGATIVE: It usually means your did not see what they were looking for (or any indication of what they were looking for)
If you are getting a colonoscopy because you have certain risk factors, or have reached age 45, than your colonoscopy results will tell you what’s going on, and how to help it. For colorectal cancers, symptoms might not be obvious to you. A colonoscopy can give your physicians the evidence and results to show you have colorectal cancer and will outline how to treat it.
Regardless of why you’re scheduled for a colonoscopy, your physician will explain your results to you, and—if applicable—will help you determine your next steps for treatment or care.
Additional colorectal cancer screening methods
There are two main types of testing for colorectal cancer screenings.
- Visual exams: Tests that can find both polyps and colorectal cancer.
- Stool-based exams: Tests that mainly find cancer.
- CT colonography
Visual exams get an inside look throughout the colon. This form of screening are preferred as long as the patient is willing to have it done.
A CT colonography is when air is pumped into the colon through a flexible tube. CT scans are then done, and a special computer program creates a 2D and 3D view of the inside of the colon and rectum, which allows for the doctor to looks for polyps and cancer. This is not as recommended as a colonoscopy because polyps cannot be removed through this procedure if found.
Stool-based tests mainly find cancer. Testing includes:
- Fecal immunochemical test (FIT)
- Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT)
- Stool DNA tests (sDNA)
All of these test the stool for hidden blood or changes that may indicate cancer is present. This is a less invasive and easier testing than previously mentioned options. However, this test is less likely to find polyps, and a colonoscopy is needed if results come back abnormal.
Our general surgeons at Logansport Memorial Hospital
Here at Logansport Memorial Hospital, we have a team of three board-certified general surgeons. Dr. Todd Weinstein, Dr. Michael Lalla, and Dr. Shannon Davis are here for your general surgery needs, including colonoscopies.
Let us take care of you.
For additional questions about colonoscopies, or to meet with one of our LMPN Surgical Services physicians, call (574) 753-2222.