Convincing new evidence about benefits of colonoscopy

March 23, 2012 3:02:38 PM PDT
For years, medical professionals have been urging adults to put their fears of colonoscopies behind them and schedule an appointment.

Now, new research supports the idea that this is a cancer that can easily be beaten through the early detection and removal of polyps during routine screening colonoscopy. That's because polyps removed early never have a chance to develop into cancer.

Family history, advanced age, and even obesity increases the risk of this disease.

But experts say it is frustrating that there are still too many people who avoid having a colonoscopy for fear of the unknown.

"It's the ideal cancer to prevent, because you have such a long lag time between the development of a polyp and the development of cancer," said University of Chicago gastroenterologist David Rubin. "That gives us a huge window of opportunity. So when people get colon cancer now we always look at ourselves and say, How could this have been prevented? Why didn't this person get screening or why didn't they know their family members had been diagnosed previously."

The American Cancer Society recommends that average risk patients begin screening with a colonoscopy at age 50.

High-risk patients, such as African Americans, Hispanics, and those with a family history should begin a few years earlier.