WebMD Now: The Colonoscopy

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Our focus on living longer and better is more important than ever, right? So here's one rite of post-50 passage that far too many of us ignore, the colonoscopy. But once you get the facts, you can put your fears to rest and make sure your colon is clean, healthy, and cancer-free.

Colorectal or colon cancer is the third-most common cancer, and each year around 50,000 men and women die from the disease here in the United States. Scary? Yeah, you bet. But here's the good part; routine screening after the age of 50 can cut that number by a lot. And caught early, colon cancer has a 90% survival rate.

So what's the problem? Not enough people are listening. Maybe you're afraid of the procedure or what the doctor might find. Or let's face it, because it involves a part of your body you don't tend to bring up in small talk, you put it off. Or you think, I don't need it because I feel fine. No, colon cancer rarely has noticeable symptoms until it's too late.

Here's the deal; it's not so bad. Let me set you straight. First of all, let's talk about the prep. You start with a laxative. Look, is it a great way to spend your Sunday night? No, but cleaning your colon is critical, and the laxative options aren't as bad as they used to be. And then, of course, there's the procedure itself.

Now, I know what you're thinking; no, it will not hurt. You'll probably get a sedative to help you relax before the test, and during the procedure itself you'll have anesthesia, so you shouldn't feel anything. In fact, most people don't even remember it-- no pain, all gain.

Worried about embarrassing gas or a little poop escaping while you're under? Trust me, your doctor has seen it all. And here's the best part; this is a two-for-one procedure. First of all, your doctor gets to see if you have any precancerous growths called polyps. These can turn into colon cancer. And second, while he's in there, he can remove the polyps and nip the potential cancer in the bud-- on procedure, two benefits.

Now, you might have a little gas or cramping when you're waking up, but it passes fast. We're talking a 15- to 30-minute procedure that A, might save your life, and B, you probably won't have to do again for another five or 10 years. Ask a friend who's had one done. They're going to tell you that I'm right. The bottom line, if you're over 50, get a colonoscopy. It can save your life.