Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Does a colonoscopy prevent cancer?"
Do colonoscopies prevent cancer or is it just a way to detect a problem? I'm only in my thirties but I was thinking about starting to get a colonoscopy every once in a while.
Preventative health is very important, and colonoscopies are an important part of cancer screening. Colonoscopies themselves do not prevent cancer, but they are a way to detect precancerous polyps or tumors before they become large enough to cause a problem. In general, colon cancer is a relatively slow-growing tumor which means that regular screening stands a very good chance of finding a 'problem' lesion before it becomes an incurable malignancy. For patients without a family history of colon cancer or other diseases such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, the general recommendation is to start colon cancer screening at age 50. With a normal colonoscopy, repeat screens should be done every 10 years. If polyps or other suspicious lesion are found, patients will typically have follow-up colonoscopies at more regular intervals. If you are worried about colon cancer or cancer screening, the best thing to do is see your primary care physician. He or she can go over the recommended guidelines for screening with you to determine whether you should be screened earlier or whether you can wait until age 50 to start regular screening exams. Your family history, prior medical history, and any new changes in bowel habits or symptoms such as blood in your stool are all an important part of determining whether you will need a colonoscopy now or later.
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