Getting a colonoscopy is something a lot of people put off due to being embarrassed & uncomfortable with the idea, or because they are scared of the procedure or preparation. Some even avoid colonoscopies because they are afraid of what might be found. But colon cancer is one cancer that is preventable with early and regular screening. Screening can catch polyps before they become cancerous, and when caught early, colon cancer can be cured.
It is recommended that everyone over 50 begin their screenings regularly. The procedure is quick, not painful and most insurance covers it. However, if colon cancer runs in your family OR you have any of the following symptoms it is important to get screened no matter what your age. My screenings began when I was 19 years old because I developed ulcerative colitis which increased my risk of developing colon cancer.
The most common symptom of colon cancer is having no symptom at all, which is why regular screening is critical. If you experience any of the following symptoms, speak to your doctor about scheduling a screening, especially if you have a personal or family history of cancer or colon polyps:
- A change in bowel habits such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool that lasts for more than a few days
- Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
- Cramping or stomach pain
- Feeling bloated or full in the stomach
- Gas pains
- Weakness and fatigue
- Decreased appetite
- Losing weight when you are not trying to
People who are at risk are stereotypically obese and sedentary individuals, or people who smoke & eat a diet high in fat. However, this is NOT always the case!!! I eat healthy and have always maintained a healthy weight. Before my surgery, I was very active. I ran and worked out regularly. I have never smoked a cigarette in my life. I don't know anyone in my family who had ulcerative colitis, I think a distant relative might have had colon cancer. Other than my UC which was well controlled by medication I was very healthy. So as you can see, colon cancer does not discriminate. That is why it is so important to listen to your body and get checked out if something is not right.
Since I had ulcerative colitis, my screenings were performed every couple of years. None of my screenings showed any signs of colon cancer until I was 32. During my pregnancy, the estrogen caused my tumor to show up. Regular screenings and being pregnant actually SAVED MY LIFE. If I had not been screened when I noticed unusual symptoms, and waited even for another 6, months my cancer would have spread. (To read about how I knew something wasn't right, read HERE about how we found my tumor.)
Don't ever ignore any symptoms that don't seem normal for you. Just go and get checked. If everything comes out fine, that is great!! If not, be grateful the problem was found and you can get on a treatment plan that will help you get well or possibly save your life. Don't put it off anymore!!!
For more information on Colon Cancer, and to find out if you are at risk and what to do to get screened: Click HERE.
If you ever have any questions about getting a colonoscopy and are embarrassed to ask, please don't ever hesitate to send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be more than happy to talk with you about any questions you might have.