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Your Healthy Family: Importance of colonoscopies starting at age 45

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
Posted at 8:03 AM, Mar 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-21 08:03:43-04

NAPLES, Fla. — March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. This is especially important right now, because doctors say it's the second leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. When you think of colorectal cancer, you probably think of older patients. But the head of Gastroenterology at NCH Healthcare System says doctors are seeing more colorectal cancer in younger people.

“It's a it's a preventable cancer," Dr. Mazen Albeldawi said. "But this is the second most common cancer in the United States."

For Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Albeldawi wants to remind you of the importance of colonoscopies.

"Colonoscopies are a screening tool,” he said.

Dr. Albeldawi said a colonoscopy could save your life. During a colonoscopy, a doctor uses a scope to examine your colon for polyps.

“A polyp is basically an abnormal growth in the lining of the colon mucosa. And these polyps can be benign or precancerous. By identifying those polyps and removing them, we prevent colon cancer from occurring," Dr. Albeldawi said.

The American Cancer Society's newest guidelines say anyone age 45 or older should get a screening colonoscopy. That's lowered from age 50.

"That's because we're seeing a lot more polyps in younger individuals these days, and we're seeing increased incidence of colorectal cancer in younger individuals as well,” Dr. Albeldawi said.

Symptoms of colorectal issues include:

  • Change in bowel habits
  • Blood in your stool
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss

Colorectal cancer doesn't necessarily cause symptoms, meaning you could have colorectal cancer and not even know it.

That's why Dr. Albeldawi told Fox 4 anyone age 45 or older who doesn't have risk factors like a family history of colon cancer, or syndromes that could increase your risk of colon cancer, should go get a colonoscopy.

"It's a 30 minute procedure, it's done under sedation which means that you don't feel it, you don't remember it. You take a nice nap. It's very little investment in your long term health," he said.

Dr. Albeldawi said people with a family history or illness that increases your risk of colorectal cancer should get colonoscopies even sooner.