By Savant Mehta, MD
This article originally appeared in The Item, a local newspaper
serving Clinton, Berlin, Bolton, Boylston, Lancaster and Sterling.
If you are 50 years of age or older, it is time! No, it is not time to walk
the dog or to put out the trash. It is time for a task of much more
significance. It is time to schedule a colonoscopy.
More than 50,000 Americans die from colon cancers every year, making it the
second leading cause of cancer deaths. Colon cancers affect both men and women
alike, and while it can strike at any age, it is most commonly found in the
Because colon cancers usually begin as a noncancerous polyp that slowly
progresses into cancer over time, people who have a colonoscopy screening in
their early 50s can be more likely to catch the growth before it poses a danger
to their health. A colonoscopy is a quick procedure, taking only about two hours
of one's time. Those who never had a colonoscopy often put off the screening,
fearing that the procedure is painful. But rest assured, patients receiving a
colonoscopy are kept completely comfortable during the test and are sedated to
relieve any anxiety they may have.
While 50 years of age is the standard
age to begin colonoscopy screenings, people who have a family history of colon
cancers or polyps should speak with their physician about starting screenings
much earlier. In these cases, the rule of thumb is to have a colonoscopy
screening 10 years prior to the age a family member was at the time of their
diagnosis. For example, if one's father was diagnosed with colon cancer at 45,
younger family members should begin screenings at 35 years of age.
Once a person has a negative colonoscopy, another screening typically is not
needed for 10 more years. After having three negative test results over a course
of 30 years, patients are no longer considered at risk for developing colon
If you are 50 years of age and never had a colonoscopy, call your doctor for
a referral today. This simple test remains the best way to protect oneself from
Savant Mehta, MD, performs colonoscopies and is available for outpatient
consultations at Clinton Hospital. To make an appointment, call 978-368-3760. A
referral from a primary care physician is required.