Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women. The primary risk factor is age; most cases are diagnosed in people over 50. When detected early, the survival rate is 90%, but only four out of 10 cancers are found at this stage.
Colonoscopy can not only detect colorectal cancer early, while it is most treatable, it can also prevent it by removing polyps before they turn into cancer. Unfortunately, one in three people who should get tested have never been screened. Perhaps they don’t know that the test is covered by Medicare, or they are nervous because they don’t know what to expect.
What to Expect at Your ColonoscopyTo put you at ease, here’s what to expect at your colonoscopy:
- The day before your colonoscopy, you will stop eating and will drink a solution that helps you empty your bowels. You should drink lots of clear liquids to stay hydrated.
- Immediately before your colonoscopy, you are given medicine through an IV that eliminates discomfort from the procedure. Most people don’t feel or remember the procedure.
- During colonoscopy, the doctor inserts a thin, flexible camera into your rectum. If the doctor sees any suspicious bumps, they will remove them for testing.
- After your colonoscopy, the doctor will discuss the results with you. You will need someone to drive you home. You are free to eat and drink immediately after. You may be sleepy for a few hours, but you should feel just fine.
Are You Due For a Colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy is recommended for people of average risk beginning at age 50. Younger people with a family history of colorectal cancer or who have risk factors for colorectal cancer should begin screening earlier. The test is then repeated at intervals customized to your level of risk and results from your prior test -- for some people, it can be as long as 10 years between colonoscopies. Talk with your primary care provider about the best screening schedule for you.