Importance of Having a Colonoscopy Examination
The bad news is that colon cancer can be deadly if not detected early. The good news is that if the cancer is detected early, it is very preventable. That is why it is so crucial that men undergo a colonoscopy examination when they reach 50 years old. The risk factor begins at age 60, but men are screened beginning at age 50, to remove polyps. A polyp is kind of growth that develops in the colon approximately 10 years before a cancer develops and can later turn into colon cancer. Removing polyps prevents colorectal cancer from ever starting and cancers discovered early on can be treated more easily, with nine out of ten people still living a normal life span. That said, patients should be screened earlier than age 50 if they exhibit any risk factors, such as a strong family history of colorectal cancer or a personal history of chronic inflammatory disease.
Colonoscopy Results Are Not Perfect But Accuracy Can Be Improved
However, despite the fact that colonoscopies are largely effective in allowing people to catch polyps early on and prevent colon cancer from ever starting, a recent report suggests that colonoscopies miss as many as one in every 13, or eight percent, of colon cancers. But, there are steps that both patients and physicians can take to increase the accuracy of a colonoscopy. "The key to maximizing protection against colorectal cancer after colonoscopy is performance by an operator with excellent examination" and growth-removal technique, "in a well-prepped colon," Dr. Charles Kahi of the University of Indiana School of Medicine said.
Patients can do their part by strictly adhering to the recommended bowel preparation. That preparation consists of consuming large amounts of special drinks prior to the examination to clean out the bowel and maximize the view. Researchers say that physicians fail to detect colon cancer because tumors go unidentified on the exam or were seen but not completely removed. The proposed solution, given the wide variety in colonoscopy training, is to standardize the training, including credentialing and re-credentialing.
For those people that discover they have colon cancer, either because they waited too long to get a colonoscopy, or because their colonoscopy missed the cancer, there are treatment options. Treatment options, which can depend on the stage of the cancer, include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy and some patients may want to consider taking part in a clinical trial. Follow-up tests may be needed.
Colon cancer is not something to be taken lightly and neither is the need to have a colonoscopy. Although some misses have been reported, patients should not neglect to have a colonoscopy and to take their bowel preparation seriously. Physicians also can work to improve the accuracy of colonoscopies. Taking the time to get tested when you reach 50 years old, while not a perfect solution, is still a very important tool in detecting and preventing the spread of colon cancer before it begins.