Why and When To Get a Colonoscopy
In early September 2022, actor Ryan Reynolds and a business partner allowed a video crew to document his colonoscopy screening to raise awareness for colon cancer. During the procedure, a small polyp was found in the actor’s colon. Due to correct prep for the procedure, both Reynolds and his business partner were able to have the small, possibly life-threatening polyp removed.
OhioHealth Colorectal Surgery Specialist, Bruce A Kerner, MD, told NBC4, “Colonoscopy is the gold standard for detecting colorectal neoplasia and decrease in the incidence of colorectal cancer and by doing that you increase the survival of it,”
Colorectal cancer is one of the few cancers that can be prevented by regular screenings. Colorectal cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed and treated at OhioHealth.
Turning 45 years old, Reynolds is the exact age when regular screenings are recommended for people at average risk.
“The national guidelines start at age 45 now. It used to be 50 for a number of years, and it decreased to age 45 because there’s a higher increase in colorectal cancer in the young,” Dr. Kerner explained.
However, the list of symptoms and predispositions that exempts people from the “average risk” category is extensive:
- A personal history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps
- A family history of colorectal cancer
- A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
- A confirmed or suspected hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer or HNPCC)
- A personal history of getting radiation to the abdomen (belly) or pelvic area to treat a prior cancer
- Rectal bleeding
- Change in bowel habits
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
Dr. Kerner tells NBC4, that colonoscopy rates, compared to other cancer screenings, are lacking mostly due to the bowel prep that needs to be done the night before the procedure.
“The ages and the individuals that should be screened for breast cancer is upwards in the high 90 percentile,” he said. “When you look at screenings for colorectal cancer, it’s a lot lower than that. In the best instances, it’s somewhere between 35 and 40 percent.”
But “it’s just one day out of your life and if you have a normal screening colonoscopy, you don’t need any other screening for 10 years,” Dr. Kerner added.
To learn more about colorectal cancer and screening options at OhioHealth, click here.