Why Your Colonoscopy Can’t Wait
When COVID-19 made its first appearance in Bennington, many people put off their regularly scheduled care out of fear of becoming infected with COVID-19 at the hospital. While the fear was understandable, it was ultimately unfounded. No transmissions of COVID-19 occurred to patients that we are aware. In honor of National Colon Cancer Awareness Month in March, we’d like to encourage you to resume your regular screenings, especially your colonoscopy. Here are our top 10 reasons for talking to your doctor about colon cancer screening today.
- Early colorectal cancer often has no symptoms, which is why screening is so important.
- Colorectal cancer is pretty common. Approximately 4.6 percent of men (1 in 22) and 4.2 percent of women (1 in 24) will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in their lifetime.
- Most people have at least one risk factor for colorectal cancer. Risk is greatest among those with a family history of colon cancer, older people, men, and African Americans. Other risk factors include behaviors traditionally associated with high-income countries: sedentary lifestyle, Western diet, and smoking. Nobody is at zero risk.
- There are lots of screening tests available for colon cancer. For people of average risk, most doctors recommend a stool test every year, a stool DNA test every 3 years, and a colonoscopy every 10 years.
- While a colonoscopy is an invasive test, it is especially effective at detecting colon cancer. It’s so effective that if the majority of people in the United States age 50 or older were screened regularly for colorectal cancer, the death rate from this disease could plummet by up to 70 percent.
- Polyps and lesions that can turn into cancer can be removed during a colonoscopy. Let’s ponder that idea for a moment. What if your mammogram or prostate exam actually prevented cancer? You would be absolutely certain to schedule it as often as it was recommended!
- Insurers understand how powerful colonoscopies are. They cover them, because they work. It’s far better business to pay for one colonoscopy every 10 years than for 10 years of colorectal cancer treatment. For those who are insured, your colonoscopy is probably free. Note, if a polyp is removed, your insurance may cover it differently than a screening.
- The doctors and nurses make the experience of having a colonoscopy as comfortable as possible. You can choose from a number of different anesthesia methods based on your own comfort level and insurance coverage.
- Lots of safeguards help make receiving a test or treatment at the hospital as safe as can be. Among them, hospital staff are fully vaccinated, which lowers the risk of spread. Many community members are also vaccinated at this time. We screen for COVID-19 before the procedure. We encourage you to wait in your car, using our virtual waiting room, rather than sitting in the waiting room. And finally, all patients are masked, and staff wear masks and additional protection to keep you and themselves safe.
- There’s a lot of satisfaction and peace of mind that comes with taking all of the preventive steps you can and increasing your odds of living a healthier and longer life.
Talk to your doctor about your personal and family history and about when you should have your colonoscopy. Then schedule it, prepare for it as directed, and walk into your colonoscopy appointment knowing that you are making great use of your time and effort.
David Furman, MD, is a gastroenterologist with SVMC Gastroenterology, part of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and Southwestern Vermont Health Care, in Bennington. This column was written as a part of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center’s observance of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, which is celebrated each March. For answers to questions about colorectal cancer screening, call 802-447-5551.