When Should I Get A Colonoscopy?


A colonoscopy is an effective cancer-screening tool, and if you’re wondering when you should have one performed, the answer can vary based on your family history and other factors.

In this blog, Dr. Tunde Adeyefa, board-certified gastroenterologist and internal medicine physician at Allied Digestive Center in North Houston, explains when you should get a colonoscopy:

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a procedure that’s performed to check for changes or abnormalities in the inside of your colon (large intestine) or rectum. It can be used to screen for colon cancer or to help manage a digestive treatment.

What does the screening involve?

During a colonoscopy, you’ll receive a sedative, and as you lie on your side, your doctor will guide a colonoscope into your rectum. It has a long, flexible tube as well as a light and very small video camera. This allows your doctor to see the inside of your colon on an external video monitor and check for any abnormalities.

If polyps are found, your doctor can remove or take a small tissue sample from them (biopsy) for further testing.

After you’re alert, your doctor will discuss the exam results with you and any follow-up testing or treatment that may be necessary.

When should you start getting colonoscopies?

Men and women who are at average risk of colorectal cancer should start being screened for this disease at age 45, either through a stool-based test or a colonoscopy. If no polyps or other issues are found, you can often wait 10 years before having another colonoscopy.

You should continue these regular screenings through age 75 if you’re in good health and have a life expectancy of more than 10 years. From age 75 through 85, you should talk to your doctor about whether this testing is still recommended. It’s not recommended for people over age 85.

An average risk means none of the following applies to you:

  • You’ve had colon cancer or certain kinds of polyps
  • You have a family history of colon cancer
  • You’ve had or have inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease
  • You have a family history of a hereditary colon syndrome
  • You’ve had a prior cancer that required radiation to your abdomen or pelvic area

If your risk of colon cancer is higher than average, your doctor may suggest that you get screened earlier, more often, and/or have specific tests. It’s best to discuss your individual needs with your doctor.

What is preparation for a colonoscopy like?

Before your colonoscopy, you’ll need to clean out your colon so your doctor can view everything clearly.

You’ll probably need to take the following steps:

  • Follow a special diet – The day before the exam, you probably won’t be able to eat solid food, and you may be limited to clear liquids.
  • Take a laxative – You’ll need to take a laxative throughout the evening before your exam.
  • Adjust your medications – Talk to your doctor about which of your regular medications you can and cannot take before your colonoscopy.

What are the benefits of getting a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy provides the following benefits:

  • Most effective screening tool available for colorectal cancer
  • Can also detect other digestive diseases
  • Allows your doctor to remove and/or biopsy polyps
  • Minimally invasive
  • Little or no downtime

If you’re suffering from a digestive issue, would like to schedule a colonoscopy or learn more about your specific risks for colorectal cancer, make an appointment today with Allied Digestive Disease Center in the North Houston area. We provide excellent services and will partner with you to make sure you live the healthiest life possible.

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