Colorectal Cancer Awareness: Don't put off your colonoscopy

Author: Lindsey Ulrich

If there was something you could do right now to lower your risk for cancer, would you do it? If you’ve been putting off a colonoscopy, you may want to reconsider.

Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Due to an increasing number found in individuals developing colorectal cancer at a younger age, the American Cancer Society changed the screening guidelines from 50 years of age to 45.

“If you are at an average risk, the baseline screening age is now 45,” said Jacquelyn Charbel, DO, FACOS, FACS, colon and rectal surgeon for MSU Health Care Urology who performs procedures at McLaren Greater Lansing. “Average risk is anyone who does not have family history of colorectal cancer and doesn’t have any red flag symptoms such as rectal bleeding or change in bowel habits.”

Who’s at risk?

Both men and women can get colorectal cancer, but there are some risk factors to consider when talking to your doctor about when to get screened.

“Family history is a big one,” said Dr. Charbel. “If you have an immediate relative who has been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, you should start screenings 10 years earlier than their age when they were diagnosed.”

Other risk factors include:

  • Tobacco use
  • Alcohol consumption
  • High red meat consumption
  • Individuals who have a vitamin D deficiency

Another study found that those who work night shifts may have an increased risk of cancers including colorectal cancer, due to disruption of their circadian rhythm and melatonin production.

Screening saves lives

Although there are stool-based screening tests you can take at home, like Cologuard, Dr. Charbel says they can’t replace a colonoscopy.

“Colonoscopies are the gold standard for detection,” said Dr. Charbel. “Not only is a colonoscopy more accurate, but detected polyps can also be removed during the procedure.” 

Be prepared

There are a few ways your doctor may have you prepare for your colonoscopy, but it’s crucial to follow the instructions exactly how they’re provided.

Talk to your doctor about certain medications you are on to determine the best route to take prior to your colonoscopy. Dr. Charbel also recommends a week leading up to your procedure to eat more soft foods and steer away from tougher meats such as red meat or turkey, seeds, nuts, and stickier foods like peanut butter, which can reduce the visibility during the procedure.

To learn more about colorectal cancer screenings or to request an appointment, click here.

To find a primary care provider that is accepting new patients, click here.

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