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If you are 45 or older, it may be time to take some additional steps to monitor your health. Notably among these steps is to get screened for colorectal cancer. If you don’t have family history or risk factors, 45 is the magic number for a screening colonoscopy. If you’re in that age group, we’re talking to you. Call your doctor today to set up a screening colonoscopy.

Rates of Colorectal Cancer in Men and Women

Excluding skin cancer, colorectal cancers are the third most diagnosed cancers in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society’s website, each year about 97,000 cases of colon cancer and 43,000 cases of rectal cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States among both men and women. Experts believe that 50,000 people will die from colorectal cancer in 2018. On average, 1 in 22 men and 1 in 24 women will get colorectal cancer in their lifetime.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Colorectal cancer is largely preventable with proper screening and preventive treatment. Because primary colon cancer (colon cancer that starts in the colon) almost always grows from polyps in the colon, removing those polyps before they become cancerous saves lives. And the best way to find and remove polyps is to have a colonoscopy. Even if cancer does begin to grow, it can often be effectively treated in its early stages. This is why screening is so important.

When Should You Get a Colonoscopy?

When you should have your first colonoscopy depends on several factors.

  • Age: If you don’t have any family history, you should schedule your first screening by your 45th birthday.

While 45 is currently the recommended age for a first screening colonoscopy in healthy people without risk factors, many people should have their first colonoscopy before that time. 

  • Family history: If you have a parent or sibling who had colorectal cancer, you should have your first screening colonoscopy earlier. Current recommendations are to have your first colonoscopy 10 years before the age your family member was diagnosed. So, if your mother was diagnosed at age 42, you should have your first screening colonoscopy by age 32. If you have certain gene mutations, you may need your first colonoscopy even earlier.
  • Personal history of bowel disorders: If you have inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis, you may need to have your first screening colonoscopy earlier.
  • Signs and symptoms: If you have any signs of symptoms of colorectal cancer, your doctor may recommend a colonoscopy regardless of your age.

How Often Should You Have a Colonoscopy?

  • If your screening colonoscopy showed a healthy, normal colon, you may not need another screening for 10 years. 
  • If you had one or two low-risk polyps removed, you should have another colonoscopy in 5 to 10 years. 
  • If you had high-risk abnormalities, you have inflammatory bowel disease, or your family history involves a part, sibling, or child with colorectal cancer, you may need to have colonoscopies more frequently than every 5 years. 

Because colorectal cancer tends to grow slowly, most people do not need to have a colonoscopy more than every 5 years. However, your doctor will talk with you about your individual situation and will make recommendations about the timing of follow-up testing.

Take control of your bowel health. Call 800-633-7377 to get a referral for a colonoscopy today.