What to Know About Colonoscopy

National Institutes of Health defines colonoscopy as a medical procedure used to see and examine the colon and rectum. It can detect the presence of polyps, abnormal inflammation and ulcers.

Mark Rubin, an Abilene physician, said that people are now more aware of the importance of colonoscopy. Moreover, he said that more people are undergoing the procedure these days than in the past. However, Dr. Rubin said that people’s awareness of the colonoscopy procedure is still not enough because of the increasing number of people suffering from colon cancer.

Dr. Rubin explained that it may take up to 10 years for polyps found in the colon and the rectum to become malignant. African-Americans and people aged 50 years and older are more prone to colon cancer and colorectal polyps. However, there are rare incidences wherein people, even as young as 20-years-old, suffer from colon cancer.

Dr. Rubin also discussed that colonoscopy is one of the most effective screening procedures for colon cancer. Colonoscopy allows a physician to make an accurate diagnosis. They may find abnormal inflammation and polyp growth in the colon and rectum, which may be removed at that time or tissue samples may be biopsied.

He said that colon cancer is hard to detect because it is asymptomatic. One may have symptoms of colon cancer, such as weight loss, changed bowel habits, bloody stools, abdominal pain, etc.; however, these symptoms are often overlooked, and therefore, people are often diagnosed only in advanced stages. People diagnosed with colon cancer at an advanced stage have a lesser chance of recovery and survival than those diagnosed at an early stage.

According to Dr. Rubin, 50 is the average age of people who have undergone colonoscopy. However, he recommends that people who are at risk and have a family history of colon cancer should undergo colonoscopy at a younger age. He believes that once people reach age 40, they should undergo colonoscopy regularly.

Patients often opt not to have a colonoscopy because of financial reasons and the discomfort they feel during the procedure. Many patients also find the preparation for colonoscopy uncomfortable; patients are not allowed to eat solid foods and have to take laxative to get rid of solid particles in the colon.

Many people may dislike the procedure, but it could save lives, just like what happened to Susan Keeling. Keeling survived colon cancer because she regularly has a colonoscopy. A malignant tumor was discovered in her colon.

After the discovery of the malignant tumor in her colon, Keeling had chemotherapy and radiotherapy daily. She fought cancer from May 2009 and finished her treatment in October of that year.

The early diagnosis of her colon cancer prevented the cancer cells from spreading throughout her body. Keeling mentioned that early detection of colon cancer through colonoscopy allowed her to survive and reverse the damage done to her body. If she was not diagnosed early, cancer cells would have metastasized and eventually damage her other organs.Keeling said that colon cancer is curable, but only if it is detected early.