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What is a colonoscopy and why do I need one?

Doctor performing a colonoscopy

What is a colonoscopy and why do I need one?

A colonoscopy is a common procedure doctors use to detect and remove polyps. These are small, non-cancerous tumors that grow on the inner lining of the colon and rectum. They’re more common as we age, and in people with sedentary lifestyles, diets low in fiber or high in fat, or who have a history of inflammatory bowel disease. If left untreated, certain types of polyps can turn into cancer. Theey is to find them and remove them before cancer develops.

Each year 150,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer. It’s the second leading cause of death in the United States—yet it’s completely preventable, thanks to a colonoscopy.

The procedure is done under sedation while a specialist inserts a scope through your large intestine to check for polyps. Doctors can actually remove the growths during the procedure, which may eliminate the risk of cancer or catch it at its earliest, most treatable stage.

A colonoscopy is painless and highly effective. It’s recommended for most people starting at age 50, or earlier for those with high risk factors such as a family history of colon cancer. If your initial screening shows no signs of risk, you may not need another exam for 10 years.

Don’t put it off

Talk with your doctor about your risk factors and consider scheduling a colonoscopy or discussing alternative methods to be screened for colon cancer for your own peace of mind.

R. Scott Nelson, DO, provides specialized care for patients with digestive disorders and colorectal concerns. Dr. Nelson delivers knowledgeable and compassionate care to the patients affected by these and other related issues. He is board-certified in both general and colorectal surgery. Dr. Nelson performs surgeries at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center.

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