A colonoscopy is an effective medical procedure for examining the colon to check for various gastrointestinal problems, such as polyps. It is also used as a screening tool for colon cancer. Healthy adults with no family history of colon cancer should have their first colonoscopy exam at age 50. A gastroenterologist can tell you if you might need one sooner than that. Your gastroenterologist can help you determine when you should have a colonoscopy performed.
A colonoscopy is performed using a colonoscope, which is a flexible tube with a tiny video camera attached to the end. The colonoscope is gently inserted into the colon through the anus. The camera at the end allows the gastroenterologist to observe the colon's interior. If any suspicious areas are detected, the gastroenterologist can use the colonoscope to extract a sample for biopsy. Additionally, if polyps are found, they can be removed during the procedure, which is important because some polyps can develop into cancer.
Everyone should have a colonoscopy exam around age 50. However, there are several situations that call for performing a colonoscopy at a younger age. For instance, adult men and women with a family history of colon cancer should have a colonoscopy by age 40. In some cases, depending on the age of the family member(s) with colon cancer, a colonoscopy might be performed even earlier than age 40. Colonoscopies are also performed on patients of varying ages who have Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis or other gastrointestinal problems.
If you are age 50 or older and have never had a colonoscopy, consider scheduling an appointment with a gastroenterologist to discuss having one. For adults of any age struggling with gastrointestinal issues, a colonoscopy can potentially determine the cause of the gastrointestinal problems. A gastroenterologist can assess your individual situation and advise you if a colonoscopy is needed at this time.