When And How Often Should You Get A Colonoscopy?

There is growing acknowledgement of the importance of a colonoscopy. The procedure is used to both identify as well as remove early cancers and precancerous polyps. It is generally accepted that people over age 50 should have a colonoscopy done once every 10 years. Many medical professionals also recommend that every 5 years people 50 and older get a flexible sigmoidoscopy, a CT colonography and a double-contrast barium enema. If any of these yield a positive result a colonoscopy is then recommended.

How Often To Test

There is some concern that some older Americans may be screened for colorectal cancer too often while others not being screened enough. However, there are several factors that play a role in deciding how often people should have a colorectal cancer screening. They include the person’s overall health, their job, lifestyle and whether or not they have a family history of cancer. Plus if the screening shows polyps some physicians recommend a follow-up visit in 1-3 years. These all impact a person’s risk of developing colorectal cancer and inform how often they should be tested.

Who To Test

The risk of developing colorectal cancer goes up as a person ages. Over 90% of colorectal cancer cases occur in people that are 50 or older. However, people may need to begin screening earlier if they have suffered with chronic inflammatory bowel disease, polyps or a family history of colorectal cancer syndromes. People with these risk factors should discuss with a gastroenterologist when and how often they need to be screened. This is particularly true for people that have had a polyp removed whether or not it was benign precancerous adenomatous polyp.

Signs Of Trouble

Having a polyp removed prevents it from becoming cancerous. People that have had this procedure are still at higher risk for developing new polyps and colorectal cancer. It may not happen, but it’s recommended they have close follow-up. This helps to reduce their risk of developing those conditions in the future. It’s particularly important in people when colorectal cancer runs in their families, they have unexplained abdominal pain, weight-loss or anemia, narrower than normal stool, blood in their stool or an unusual change in their bowel habits.

A colonoscopy is an important screening tool for the early detection of colorectal cancer. It is something that shouldn’t be ignored particularly in people at high risk for developing the disease. They should speak with their gastroenterologist to decide when is the optimal time to have a colonoscopy done and how often follow-up tests are recommended for them based on their health and family medical history. While some older Americans may be over-tested, ethnic minorities and the economically challenged are not tested often enough.