According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer ranks third as the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. A colonoscopy allows a doctor to examine the inside of the colon to detect polyps, diseases, or other abnormal results. The recommended time interval between procedures is 10 years beginning at the age of 50.
It is the responsibility of medical providers to ensure their patients are informed of the need for these types of health screenings in order to adhere to the standard of care. A recent report published by The Boston Globe refers to an Illinois gastroenterologist on the board of the American Gastroenterological Association who says there are substantiated reasons for people to have their screenings performed earlier than the recommended timeline, such as:
- Patients may be under the guidance of their primary doctor who has recommended an earlier follow-up;
- Patients may not have properly prepared for the screening the first time, which means a possibly skewed view of the entire colon; and
- Patients may fear history of colon cancer in their family.
The director of endoscopy from Boston Medical Center supports this by saying that the bigger issue is people are not undergoing these important health screenings. An estimated 40 percent of Americans over the age of 50 have not been screened for colon cancer in any way.
In general, a colonoscopy is considered a safe procedure. Approximately 1 in 1,000 patients who have the screening without the removal of growths experience complications. While there are suggested timelines in place for procedures, there are low risks associated with a patient being screened early. What remains important is adequate testing performed on a per patient basis, even if that calls for more frequent testing.
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