A colonoscopy is a gold standard for colorectal cancer screening. The procedure entails doing a “prep,” which helps empty the bowels completely for accurate viewing. During a colonoscopy, the doctor uses a lighted, flexible instrument to view the rectum and colon, and check for abnormalities that may point to cancer. Precancerous polyps can also be removed during a colonoscopy.
One of the most frequently asked questions about a colonoscopy is how often it should be performed, and the answer is: it depends. Let’s talk about the factors your doctor will take into account before making recommendations on how often you should get a colonoscopy.
Your risk for colorectal cancer increases with age. According to The American Cancer Society, men and women who are at average risk for colorectal cancer should start discussing getting a colonoscopy beginning at the age of 45 and have another exam after 10 years.
According to The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, colon cancer screening should start at the age of 45, continuing until the age of 75 for a substantial benefit. Similar to recommendations by The American Cancer Society, it should be performed every 10 years for patients with average risk. Regular screenings are crucial to early detection of polyps and prevention of colorectal cancer.
In the interim, stool-based tests may be recommended for patients to check for possible signs of precancerous polyps or colorectal cancer.
Recommendations by health agencies change depending on patient risk. High-risk patients are those who have a family or personal history of colorectal cancer, precancerous polyps, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, and a history of radiation therapy directed in the abdominal or pelvic region. For those belonging to the high-risk group, screening may start as early as the age of 40, or 10 years earlier than the age of the family member diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and should be performed more frequently.
If one or more first-degree relatives have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer before the age of 60, your doctor may recommend a colonoscopy every five years.
Once patients reach the age of 75, the decision to continue getting colonoscopies is a personal one. Doctors usually help patients make a decision by considering their overall health and life expectancy. Patients who are over the age of 85 are no longer recommended to get a colonoscopy.
Colonoscopy in Austin, TX
At Austin Gastroenterology, we regularly perform colonoscopies as part of colon cancer screening, and we are proud to share a much higher adenoma detection rate compared to national benchmarks, which speaks to the quality and accuracy of our tests.
If you have worries and concerns about this life-saving screening procedure, do not hesitate to discuss it with our GI doctors. We are compassionate and have empathy for our patients, and strive to make the experience as comfortable and relaxing as possible.