Jan 13, 2014 8:00 AM

Author: Office of Public Affairs

Colonoscopies are important for screening for polyps, or growths, which can be cancerous or turn into cancer.

Colon Cancer Screening Guidelines

Colorectal cancer is 90 percent preventable with early, proper screening. Here are the main screening guidelines:

  • Everyone of average risk should start screening at age 50.
  • If an immediate family member has had colorectal cancer before 60 or if more than one relative has had the disease at any age, you should start screening at 40 or earlier.
  • People who have a chronic inflammatory bowel condition should start screenings earlier and have them more frequently.

Symptoms of Colon Cancer

In its early stages, colorectal cancer usually has no symptoms. If you notice blood in your stool or have a lasting change in bowel habits, see your doctor. Other symptoms may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Anemia
  • Weight loss
  • New constipation

You are at a greater risk of developing polyps on the colon (the large intestine) if you have these lifestyle factors:

  • Eat a lot of red meat and processed meat
  • Smoke
  • Abuse alcohol
  • Are inactive
  • Are obese

What to Expect for a Colonoscopy

Preparation begins the day before the procedure. You will have to use laxatives or another process as instructed by your doctor to clean out the colon for a thorough exam.

  • The day before, you can consume only liquids like broths, gelatins, and juice without the pulp, coffee (no milk or cream), honey, soda, and nondairy frozen desserts like popsicles.
  • You will complete the bowel preparation four hours before your appointment. (Stay close to a bathroom.)
  • Arrange to have a ride home after the procedure.
  • You will be given a sedative before the exam.
  • A gastroenterologist performs the exam using a colonoscope. If polyps are found, they likely will be removed.
  • You will be taken to a recovery room afterward.
  • If no polyps were found, congratulations! You likely won’t need another colonoscopy for 10 years. If polyps are found, they will be tested for cancer.

Get Screened

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.

colon cancer colonoscopy

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