Health Check: Colonoscopy - A Lifesaving Screening

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An estimated one in 20 people will develop Colorectal Cancer during their lifetime. If you knew there was something you could do to prevent getting it, would you do it? In this month's Health Check Report, find out how one test can help you avoid the second most deadly form of cancer in the United States.

When Donna Cass turned 50, she knew what she had to do.

"My doctor recommended it since I was that age to get it done," Donna said. "So, I had it done."

But Dr. Geoff Cooper says nearly half of the people who should get a Colonoscopy, don't.

"There's some embarrassment involved with it because of the anatomic parts that we're dealing with. And so people are a little afraid," said Dr. Cooper.

But a Colonoscopy can mean the difference between life and death. It not only detects cancer early, it can prevent it.

"Colon cancer arises from things called polyps. Polyps grow on the inside of the colon wall. About 12 to 25 percent of people will have polyps in their lifetime. The polyps can then develop over time into colon cancer."

If doctors spot a polyp during a Colonoscopy, they can remove it, then determine if it's cancerous.

Dr. Cooper says the preparation is actually the most challenging part of the procedure. The day before a Colonoscopy patients go to the pharmacy to pick up a prescribed powder. They mix it with 64 ounces of Gatorade and begin drinking it that evening in 15 minute intervals until is gone.

The next day patients are sedated for the screening. Doctors use a scope with a camera to get a thorough look at the entire colon. For Donna, it was painless and may have saved her life.

"Last year, they found a precancerous cell. They also found them this year. But they're okay. They cut them out. Everything's okay."

Something she knows wouldn't have been done without a Colonoscopy.

Most of us should begin getting get screened at 50. If everything's normal, there's a 10-year follow-up. If not, tests are more frequent. If there's a family history or you have symptoms, like a change in bowel habits, screenings should begin sooner. It's something you should talk over with your doctor.

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