Regular colon cancer screenings are essential for anyone over the age of 50, especially if you’re at increased risk of the disease. Colon cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the United States, and is not an issue to be taken lightly. But of course, many people are uncomfortable with the idea procedures involving this area of their bodies, and tend to procrastinate on scheduling these important screenings.
The truth is, colon cancer screening is really not so bad. And no procedure is anywhere near as uncomfortable as suffering from a long, drawn-out battle with cancer! So go ahead and schedule your procedure today, and you can hopefully save yourself a lot of trouble and discomfort in the future. You might even save your own life.
Now, here’s some good news: You might not even need a colonoscopy.
Ask your doctor about other tests. Talking to your doctor is the first step to getting a colon cancer screening. Depending on your individual risk factors, your doctor might recommend a simpler, less invasive screening first. You could be asked to give a stool sample, or swallow a tiny pill equipped with a camera. The camera will snap pictures of the inside of your intestinal tract, and your doctor can examine these images for signs of cancer.
If either of these tests indicate cause for concern, or if you already have many high-risk factors for colon cancer, your doctor will want to proceed to a full colonoscopy.
Preparing for a colonoscopy
Your doctor will give you more specific instruction before your procedure. But in general, you will be asked to:
- Fast the day before the exam – no solid food, and clear liquids only
- Completely abstain from food or liquid after midnight the night before the exam
- Take a laxative the night before your exam, to help “clean things out”
- Use an enema kit a few hours before your exam (you might do this instead of the laxative, or be instructed to do both)
- Abstain from certain medications – your doctor will request a full reporting of your prescriptions, and advise you on which ones you should omit or adjust
Many doctors understand that patients feel uncomfortable or even embarrassed about colonoscopy procedures. You might be prescribed a light sedative to help you relax. However, it can take up to a day for the full effects to wear off, so arrange a ride home from your appointment and take it easy for the next 24 hours.
You might feel bloated or pass a small amount of blood after your procedure, but in most cases this is nothing to worry about. Review possible side effects with your doctor, and call right away if you experience anything out of the ordinary.
The entire colonoscopy procedure usually takes less than an hour, and won’t need to be repeated any time soon unless you’re at high risk of colon cancer. Now that it’s over, you can breathe a sigh of relief, because you have one less potential health problem to worry about.