Why and When You Should Undergo the All-Important Colonoscopy

Mar 10, 2023

Why and When You Should Undergo the All-Important Colonoscopy

The number of colorectal cancer diagnoses has been steadily declining over the last 40 years, largely because of the colonoscopy. This invaluable screening tool can help you stay one step ahead of this serious disease.

Since the mid-1980s, the number of colorectal diagnoses in the United States has steadily declined, largely thanks to the increasing use of a valuable screening tool — the colonoscopy.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in the United States, so the team of colorectal experts here at Fairfax Colon & Rectal Surgery decided it would be a good time to highlight the colonoscopy. Each year in the United States, more than 15 million people undergo this important screening for colorectal cancer.

If you haven’t yet undergone a colonoscopy, here’s a look at why scheduling this screening is important and when you should schedule it.

A colonoscopy is a potential lifesaver

Each year in the US, more than 150,000 cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed, making it the third most diagnosed cancer among men and women (excluding skin cancer). Unfortunately, the American Cancer Society predicts that 52,550 people will lose their lives to colorectal cancer in 2023.

One of the best ways to avoid becoming part of these statistics is with a colonoscopy. During this simple procedure, we closely examine the interior of your colon and rectum to check for signs of any suspicious tissues or polyps. Better still, we remove these tissues during your colonoscopy for further study.

This ability to check for precancerous conditions or the earliest signs of cancer allows us to intervene quickly to prevent the disease from becoming potentially life-threatening.

When to screen for colorectal cancer

While there are several exceptions, most people should start the screening process for colorectal cancer at the age of 45. Should the colonoscopy come back clean, you should test every 10 years until age 85 — just four colonoscopies.

As we mentioned, there are some exceptions to this general screening guideline, such as:

  • Having a family or personal history of colorectal cancer
  • Having an inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Previous radiation to your abdomen or pelvis
  • Being genetically predisposed to colorectal cancer

In these cases, we may want to screen at an earlier age and more often than the 10 years mentioned above.

Another reason why we may want to screen more regularly is if we find suspicious tissues or polyps during your first colonoscopy. Upon further examination, we often find these tissues benign, which places you back on the every 10 years track.

However, if we find abnormal cells during the biopsy of your tissues or remove a large number of polyps, we may want to see you sooner for a follow-up colonoscopy.

We might be getting ahead of ourselves a little bit here, so let’s get back to step one — scheduling your colonoscopy. 

To make your appointment for this all-important colorectal cancer screening, please contact one of our offices in Fairfax, Fair Oaks, Alexandria, Gainesville, Woodbridge, or Lansdowne, Virginia.