Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Colonoscopies - Why Early Detection Is Key

Colonoscopies are an essential part of a person's screening tools. They are necessary for people with a family history of polyps or colon cancer and those with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

Many people avoid a colonoscopy because of the prep process, but the procedure is well worth it. Screenings work, and they save lives.

Detecting Colorectal Cancer Early

Colorectal cancer is one of the most treatable types if it's caught early. A colonoscopy can be diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive all at once. It is the only test that enables healthcare providers to see polyps that may become cancerous and remove them before they grow larger and spread.

A long, flexible tube with a camera attached is inserted through your rectum during a colonoscopy. A trained gastroenterologist steers this tube into the colon and rectum to look for polyps and other abnormalities. The camera lets doctors spot precancerous and potentially cancerous growths, called adenomas, and they can also be removed during a colonoscopy.

A recent study found that patients with a history of polyps who received colonoscopies every other year were less likely to develop cancer compared to those with a sporadic screening schedule. Screening recommendations suggest that people with no family history should begin regular screening at age 50, and those with a hereditary risk should start earlier.

Detecting Polyps

Polyps are a typical and potentially precancerous growth along the colon and rectum lining. They are usually small and don't cause pain, so they often go unnoticed. Colonoscopies allow doctors to examine these areas and remove polyps or abnormal tissues.

A colonoscope is a flexible tube that is placed into your rectum and has a camera at the end of it. A highly trained gastroenterologist or surgeon steers the tube through your colon, looking for polyps and early cancers. It is more thorough than a less extensive screening test known as a flexible sigmoidoscopy, which does not fully evaluate the lower colon.

Healthcare providers often recommend colonoscopies at age 45 for average-risk adults. However, people with a family history of colorectal cancer or a rare inherited condition like familial adenomatous polyposis may need to begin screening earlier. After the procedure, your gastroenterologist at Gastro Of The Rockies will send any removed tissue samples for laboratory testing. The results are usually available within a few days or weeks.

Detecting Diverticulosis

Diverticula arise when the colon's elevated pressure aggravates minor vulnerabilities in the muscle, blood vessel, and connective tissue layers that comprise the colon wall. These flaws produce pouches when they protrude outward.

These pouches are commonly asymptomatic but can become infected and cause pain and bleeding. They may also tear or rupture. If they rupture, they can leak into the abdomen and cause peritonitis or a fistula. Peritonitis is a severe medical emergency that requires immediate treatment.

A long, flexible tube with a camera at the end, known as a colonoscope, is inserted into your rectum by your doctor during a colonoscopy. The scope can see the entire length of your colon. The procedure is a more extensive exam than a barium enema or flexible sigmoidoscopy, which can miss abnormalities farther inside the colon. Family physicians can perform colonoscopies, which makes the test more accessible for patients. It allows them to be performed in various settings, including rural and underserved communities.

Detecting Invasive Cancers

When cancer grows, it can invade the colon or rectum wall. It can even grow beyond the wall into blood vessels and lymph nodes. Invasion is the beginning of a new, more dangerous stage called metastatic colon cancer.

When doctors detect early invasive cancers during a colonoscopy, they can remove them before they have a chance to spread. It can prevent the formation of a more severe tumor and save lives.

In addition to removing precancerous polyps and cancers, colonoscopies detect other conditions that can cause bowel problems, such as colitis, Crohn's disease, or diverticulosis. Doctors can also biopsy suspicious tissue to confirm if it's cancer or another condition.

The most common method for detecting colorectal cancer, the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, is a colonoscopy. For those over 50, routine colonoscopies are covered by Medicare and medical insurance, but depending on your risk factors, you might need to be checked before then.

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