When Should I Schedule My First Colonoscopy?

Thinking about a colonoscopy doesn’t compare with a fun night out at the movies, but taking the time to schedule one when you’re due can be the difference between health and illness. 

About 150,000 adults in the United States are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year. That number might seem small compared to the US population, but if you’re in that group, it looms large. While colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer occurring among adults, it’s the second leading cause of death from cancer in our country. 

Our board-certified gastroenterologists at Digestive Disease Consultants of Orange County understand that the prospect of having your first colonoscopy may be anxiety-provoking. Our staff provides compassionate care to make your test as seamless as possible. 

When we identify early irregularities in the inner lining of your large intestine, we can reduce your chances of getting colorectal cancer. If we do spot cancer, early detection means it can usually be cured. 

Fortunately, survival rates have been increasing every year, largely because of colorectal screenings through colonoscopies. If you do have cancer but it hasn’t spread, the survival rate is now 90%. As awareness continues to grow about the importance of these screenings, colorectal cancer survival rates will only continue to increase.

When should I get my first colonoscopy? The answer is that it depends on your risk factors. 

If you’re at average risk 

If you’re in your 40s, one of the most important screening tests that helps protect your health is your first colonoscopy. If you’re at average risk, you should have the first screening at age 45. Average risk means that you don’t have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer, an inflammatory bowel disease, a hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome, or radiation to your abdomen for a previous cancer. 

If you’re at higher risk 

The US Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer (USMSTF) develops guidelines for those at higher risk of colorectal cancer. You should discuss your specific circumstance with your Digestive Disease Consultants gastroenterologist. Those at higher risk are divided into the following groups. 

If you have inflammatory bowel symptoms 

Do you have frequent pain in your abdomen, diarrhea, or constipation? You may have an inflammatory bowel condition, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Your doctor likely recommends a colonoscopy to pinpoint the diagnosis. It allows him to see real-time pictures of your colon and rectum and take biopsies, which can help differentiate which inflammatory disease you have. 

If family members have had colorectal cancer

You need a colonoscopy screening by or before age 40, depending on which relatives have had colorectal cancer and their age at diagnosis, according to the USMSTF guidelines. Regular appointments with your gastroenterologist can help prevent cancer. 

If you’ve had radiation to your abdomen for a previous cancer

If you had a test with radiation for prior cancer, colonoscopy screening may begin five years after the test, depending on your age when the radiation occurred, or by age 30, whichever of these comes last. You may need repeat screenings every three to five years. 

Call or book an appointment online with Digestive Disease Consultants of Orange County today if it’s time to schedule a colonoscopy or for relief from any gastrointestinal symptoms you’re experiencing.

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