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What is Colon Cancer and Why Should I Get a Colonoscopy?

If during your most recent checkup the words “Colonoscopy” and “Colon Cancer” were thrown around, you might be worried. Stay calm though, often doctors will advise patients to get a colonoscopy as a routine procedure to help in preventing colon cancer or being able to catch it in the early stages.

What is colon cancer?

Colon cancer occurs when cancerous cells and growths start to appear in the large intestine which is made up of the colon and the rectum. The cancerous cells can start out as small noncancerous clumps of cells that over time may become an issue.

What causes colon cancer?

Though it is still uncertain as to what is the exact cause of colon cancer, some of the contributing factors can be related to family history, age, race or inflammatory diseases like Crohn’s Disease. When it comes to cases of colon cancer, most of the patients are above the age of 50. However, we are beginning to see 30 & 40-year-olds with Colon Cancer.

There are some lifestyle factors that can contribute to the development of colon cancer as well, like high fat intake, smoking, and a sedentary lifestyle. Diet can be an important factor in preventing colon cancer as it is a part of the digestive system.

What are the symptoms of colon cancer?

There are a couple of symptoms that the body can experience if they have colon cancer. Common symptoms include fatigue, weakness, change in bowel habits, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, cramps, bloating, and abdominal pain. Even without symptoms colon cancer is often present many years before obvious signs occur.

If you have any of these symptoms or believe that you may have colon cancer you should consult your physician immediately. If you are over the age of the 50, keep in mind that cancer can be present in the early stages without symptoms appearing. It is a best practice to have an annual checkup to prevent and check for signs of colon cancer.

How can I prevent colon cancer?

If you believe that you might be at risk for colon cancer and are wanting to lower your chances, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Make sure that you are getting regular exercise, watching your weight, and eating a lot of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Being healthy can help prevent many types of cancers as well as other diseases. Limiting your alcohol intake and giving up smoking habits can help prevent cancer as well, and aid in a better quality of life.

One of the major ways to prevent colon cancer is to get regular checkups. Scheduling a colonoscopy with your doctor can help to find those small noncancerous clumps and remove them before they evolve into bigger problems. A colonoscopy can also help in finding early stages of cancer before symptoms start to show- this can make the cancer easier to treat before the problem becomes too severe.

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a procedure that uses a long four-foot tube, or colonoscope, to look inside the colon and check for abnormalities. This procedure is done by a gastroenterologist and during the examination, they will checking the walls of the colon for any signs of colon cancer or other diseases. During the procedure, they might also remove the smaller non-cancerous clumps to prevent them from growing into cancerous cells.

The procedure takes between 20 to 30 minutes, and the patient is required to be monitored for a minimum of 30 minutes after the procedure to ensure that they are returning to their normal state. Following a colonoscopy, it is recommended to not operate large machinery for up to 24 hours, as the sedative given to a patient during the procedure can impair coordination.

How do I know if I need a colonoscopy?

It is important that if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above to speak with your primary care doctor as they might say that a colonoscopy is needed. It is also in best practice to have a colonoscopy once you turn 50 and then every ten years following.

While you should consult your doctor before getting a colonoscopy, it is an important part of maintaining your health. The Digestive and Liver Disease Center of San Antonio has been performed multiple colonoscopies for those in the San Antonio area. We provide advanced diagnostic methods and want to educate our patients on their treatment plans and help them to maintain a healthy life. If you have any questions and would like to speak to our professional staff or set an appointment, please give us a call at (210) 941-1662 or book an appointment online today.

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