If you're older than 40 and have had cancer in your family, it's probably a good idea to have a colonoscopy done, said Dr. Clifford Simmang a colon and rectal surgery specialist at Baylor Medical-Grapevine.
"The average risk for colon cancer starts at about age 50 so that's when we normally recommend getting a colonoscopy done," Simmang said. "But if you have a family history of cancer, you probably want to get one done sooner than that, probably in your 40s."
Simmang added that, if caught early, colon and rectal cancer can be treated and cured. But, if you don't have a colonoscopy done by the time you are 50, you could be putting yourself at great risk, especially if there is a history of cancer in your family.
"Only 6 percent of the population will get colon cancer in their lifetime," he said. "But, 20 to 30 percent of the time when we do these exams, we will find pollups that are pre-cancerous and, had we not found them early and removed them, they would have turned into cancer and caused a lot of problems for the patient."
Simmang said that, while many people think that a colonoscopy is painful, it's not as much of an ordeal as people imagine it to be.
"The colonoscopy itself is really no big deal," he said. "Patients are put to sleep during it so they don't really feel anything. The most difficult part is drinking that liquid that makes you go to the restroom and completely cleans your colon out. That's the part that most people find painful. But the actual colonoscopy? For most patients, it's not a problem at all. In fact, after they have it done, many of our patients will go somewhere and have a big meal because they are hungry."
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