Growing older comes with its fair share of inconveniences. Bodies don’t cooperate the way they once did and ailments seem to grow exponentially in number. You may feel that the doctor appointmentsnever end, particularly if you are keeping up with recommended health screenings. But, be assured that any aggravation is well worth the peace of mind that comes with being proactive in your health care.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for some. Despite our expansive knowledge of how to not only treat but also prevent many of the most common forms of cancer, many continue to avoid screening. In the case of colorectal cancer, the fourth most common among Americans, up to one third of those eligible for screenings do not follow through. Considering that the vast majority of cases are preventable with early detection of pre-cancerous polyps, these statistics are particularly troubling.
Unsure if it’s time for you to schedule a colonoscopy? Here are the recommended guidelines based on age and risk factors:
Colonoscopy Guidelines for Average Risk Patients
For patients who are in good health and without heightened colorectal risk factors, screening guidelines are relatively straightforward. Both men and women within the average risk category are recommended the following:
- Initial colonoscopy at age 50
- Repeat screening every 10 years until age 75 for those found to be healthy
- Additional, physician-recommended screenings based on findings of polyps or cancer
Colonoscopy Guidelines for High-Risk Patients
In the case of those individuals who possess factors which categorize them as high-risk for colorectal cancer, screening guidelines become more comprehensive. In many cases, physicians will recommend that these individuals be screened before age 50 or more frequently than those at average risk. Among the factors that may place you in a high-risk category are:
- A history of colorectal cancer or polyps
- A history of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s, or ulcerative colitis
- A family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
- Symptoms such as unexplained weight loss and bleeding
- Being of African American descent
- Possessing a hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome (familial adenomatous polyposis or Lynch syndrome)
If you are unsure of where you fall in these categories, or if you are and are ready to get screened, schedule an appointment with a skilled physician to further discuss your options. Being a disease that is largely preventable, screening for colorectal cancer is never a decision that you will regret. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same about foregoing these tests.
Dr. Dan Bourgeois
Dr. Frank Sanfiel