Colorectal cancer, often referred to as colon cancer, affects both men and women and is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and the third most common type of cancer diagnosed in men and women. The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with age. More than 90 percent of cases occur in people 50 or older.
But there is an easy way to lower your risk of colon cancer! Getting screened for colon cancer, by having a colonoscopy, saves lives. Colonoscopies can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screen for your life and have a colonoscopy starting at age 50, and then continue at regular intervals.
What is a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a procedure that allows the physician to look inside your large intestine, from the lowest part, the rectum, all the way up through the colon to the lower end of the small intestine.
A colonoscopy takes 30 to 60 minutes. The sedative and pain medicine should keep you from feeling much discomfort during the exam. You will need to remain at the colonoscopy facility until the sedative wears off, about one to two hours, before going home.
Who performs a colonoscopy?
You will have an office visit with a physician before the procedure. At your appointment, you will need to provide a complete list of all the medicines you are taking, including over-the-counter medications and natural supplements, and any allergies you have to drugs or other substances. Your medical team will also want to know if you have heart, lung or other medical conditions that may need special attention before, during or after the colonoscopy. It is especially important to discuss diabetic medications and anticoagulants (sometimes called blood thinners) with your physician before the test. Your physician will advise you on how to take these medications in the days leading up to your procedure.
The actual colonoscopy can be done at Randolph Health's outpatient center or in an outpatient surgical center. You will be asked to sign a form verifying that you consent to the procedure and that you understand what is involved. If there is anything you do not understand, please ask questions.
Paying for a colonoscopy
Many insurance plans have a screening colonoscopy benefit for members age 50 or over. Medicare and Medicaid cover a screening colonoscopy at 100 percent if you are age 50 or over and haven't had the test in the past 10 years. Keep in mind that the expense of a colonoscopy is much less than paying for colon cancer treatment. Contact your health plan administrator to discuss your plan benefits.
Colonoscopy myth vs. fact
Let's face it: There is nothing glamorous about having a colonoscopy. But the fact is it could save your life! Time and time again, we hear many reasons why people don't have a colonoscopy and, believe it or not, most of the reasons are based on myths. So, let's take a minute and dispel those myths once and for all.
Myth: It's extremely painful
Fact: Colonoscopies are conducted after a patient has been prepped, which includes a sedative and pain medicine to keep you from feeling much discomfort.
Myth: Colonoscopies are unsafe and can cause internal damage
Fact: Colonoscopies are conducted only by expert physicians who specialize in this procedure. As with any procedure, there are always risks, but the risk of experiencing any complications from a screening colonoscopy is very low.
Myth: Any cancer detected won't be curable
Fact: Colon cancer is preventable and highly treatable when caught at an early stage. People who are diagnosed early have over a 90 percent chance of surviving.
Myth: When you have a colonoscopy, you will have to be out of work for several days
Fact: The actual procedure takes only about 30 to 60 minutes. So, relatively short, but you must take into account arrival time, prep time and post-procedure time. Most patients miss only one full day of work.
Myth: You don't need a colonoscopy if you have regular bowel movements and you feel fine
Fact: Colon cancer is a silent killer. Usually, there are no symptoms to rely on, and when there are symptoms, the cancer may be at an advanced stage.
Myth: Colon cancer affects only men
Fact: Colon cancer affects both men and women. In fact, approximately 26,000 women die every year from colon cancer. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.
Myth: I can't afford to have a colonoscopy
Fact: You can't afford not to have one. It could save your life. Many insurance plans have a screening colonoscopy benefit for members age 50 or over. Medicare and Medicaid cover a screening colonoscopy at 100 percent if you are age 50 or over and haven't had the test in the past 10 years. Keep in mind that the expense of a colonoscopy is much less than paying for colon cancer treatment.