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Screening Saves Lives

The Most Effective Screening is a Colonoscopy

The Digestive Health Center at UnityPoint Health – Meriter is on a mission to improve the colonoscopy's reputation and minimize the fears that surround the procedure.

Colonoscopies Can Prevent Colon Cancer

Among the cancers that affect both men and women, colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Fortunately, colon cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer. The best way to prevent colon cancer is with a colonoscopy, a screening test proven to significantly reduce and individual's risk for colon cancer.

We grow small lumps of tissue in our colon, called polyps, just as we grow skin tags on our skin.  There are two types of polyps: ones that are benign and do not turn into cancer and those that are precancerous.  It is the precancerous polyps that, over time, develop into cancer.

The great news is colonoscopies can prevent colon cancer. During a colonoscopy, your doctor can easily find and remove precancerous polyps before they have the chance to turn into cancer. Unfortunately, early stage colon cancer does not typically show symptoms. If you wait until you experience signs and symptoms of colon cancer, it means you already have the disease, and it may be advanced and difficult to cure.

Dispelling the Myths:

"People who aren't at high risk don't need a colonoscopy."
Guidelines state that people at average risk of developing colon cancer should get screened starting at age 50, whereas people at high risk — those with inflammatory bowel disease or a personal or family history of the disease — should get screened starting at age 40 or earlier. You may not need another screening for 10 years if nothing is found. It's critical to get that first screening.

"If something is found during the colonoscopy, that's really bad news."
Actually, just the opposite may be true! Most colon cancers start as pre-cancerous growths called polyps, found in approximately 30 percent of colonoscopies performed at age 50, and even more frequently as patients age. Those polyps are removed during the colonoscopy, so colon cancer is actually prevented from developing.

"The test is complicated and painful."
The whole screening takes only 30 minutes! Before the colonoscopy begins, the patient is given intravenous sedatives to make him or her relaxed and sleepy—most patients will not even remember the colonoscopy itself. Normal activities can resume the next day.  Colonoscopies have very low rates of complications.

Take steps to ensure a healthy future.

If you are age 45 or older, or at an increased risk for colon cancer, talk to your primary care provider about screening options that are right for you.

Screening Options

UnityPoint Health - Meriter offers additional colon cancer screening options, including Cologuard Stool DNA Screening Test. Talk to your primary care provider about which option is right for you.