Colon cancer: 5 important facts

Martin D. Mark, M.D., gastroenterologist, shared five things you should know about colon cancer screening.

Colon cancer is among the most preventable cancers thanks to screenings for early detection and successful treatments. However, many people shy away from screenings and ignore their colon health. Martin D. Mark, M.D., gastroenterologist, shared five things you should know about colon cancer screening.

1. You should get regular colonoscopies if you are age 50 or older. Most people should schedule a regular colonoscopy every 10 years starting at age 50. According to Dr. Mark, if you have a family history of colon cancer, you should start screenings sooner. “Any family history of colon cancer is cause to have your risk assessed,” Dr. Mark said. “Your risk can grow from 6 percent to 25 percent as you increase the number of family members with a history of colon cancer.”

2. Get screened even if you don’t have symptoms. Many people think they don’t need a colonoscopy because they don’t experience any cancer symptoms. However, most cases of colon cancer don’t cause symptoms. Polyps, which are growths on the colon that can lead to cancer, don’t bleed, don’t cause pain and don’t disrupt bowel function. The only way to know if you have polyps is to undergo a colonoscopy.

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3. It is OK to be scared or embarrassed. Dr. Mark said the most common reasons people avoid colon screenings are fear of potential pain or discomfort and embarrassment about the procedure. According to Dr. Mark, bowel preparations have become easier to digest and sedation techniques have improved, allowing for a comfortable screening experience.

4. Ask your physician about his or her experience in gastroenterology. It is important to know your gastroenterologist’s statistics before your colonoscopy. According to Dr. Mark, physicians should be performing at least 50 colonoscopies per month, and at least 90 percent of those should include a complete exam of the colon. They should be finding polyps in 25 percent of male patients and 15 percent of female patients.

5. Most health insurers cover colonoscopy costs. Colonoscopies are now considered a preventive service by most insurers, meaning the cost of the screening is negligible for you. You may want to speak with your insurance provider prior to the procedure, as some do not cover sedation costs. In that case, your physician should be able to work with you to find an affordable alternative.


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