Ulcers. Polyps. Tumors. These are all abnormalities that may show up in a colonoscopy. If they do, they can be cancerous.

Preventing colorectal cancer is one of the main reasons why there are colonoscopy procedures. Finding and removing polyps from the colon can help in the prevention of colorectal cancer.

Colonoscopies are required every 10 years once an individual turns 50 years old. If there is a history of colorectal cancer or if there is an increased risk of having colorectal cancer, a patient may want to begin their colorectal cancer screenings prior to age 50.

“In the last 20 years, screening colonoscopies have been one of the few interventions that have allowed us to decrease a person’s risk of developing cancer. It allows an individual to have polyps easily removed before they even become a colon cance,” said General Surgeon, Dr. Christopher Maki.

Conditions that may increase the risk of colorectal cancer include a personal history of cancer or polyps, inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease and a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps.

Tips and tricks for an easy, stress-free colonoscopy:

1.  Bowel prep. The bowel prep is one of the most critical parts of the colonoscopy. The prep starts two days prior to the procedure, which involves dietary restrictions and both laxative pills and a laxative drink. Having a clear colon allows the physician to have a clear view of the colon to see polyps and other possible abnormalities.

2.  Procedure. Patients will receive sedation prior to the procedure. Once this is complete, the physician will use a thin, flexible and lighted tube with a video camera to view inside the entire colon. The physician will be able to remove polyps or lesions as necessary.

3.  Ride home. Due to the medications administered for the procedure, the patient will need someone to take them home. Most patients miss the rest of their workday due to drowsiness from the medications.

4.  Wait for results. If the doctor notices anything during the procedure like a polyp, tumor or anything abnormal, a biopsy will be taken and sent to the laboratory for review. As part of a biopsy, a portion of the polyp or abnormal area is extracted through the colonoscope and then sent to the laboratory for review.

5.  Hydrate. After a procedure, it is important to stay hydrated and push liquids.

“Colonoscopies are a great way to catch colon and rectal cancers in their earliest stages,” said General Surgeon, Dr. Jonathan Eldor. “Having a routine screening procedure helps us be a part of the fight against cancer. Without a screening, the cancer can grow and spread without even being noticed.”

If you or a loved one is of age for a colonoscopy or has a family history of colon or rectal cancer, contact your primary care provider.