Why do I need a colon exam?
Many diseases of the colon and rectum can be prevented or minimized. The key is to seek medical care for prompt diagnosis and treatment when symptoms develop—and to proactively screen for colorectal cancer. Colon exams, especially those using direct visualization such as colonoscopy or PillCam COLON, offer doctors a way to look at the inside lining of the colon to find any abnormal areas and to monitor existing conditions.
Locating polyps, the precursors to most colorectal cancers
Polyps are abnormal growths attached to the inside of the colon or rectum. Colon polyps are common, and not everyone who has them will develop cancer. But with regular screening, polyps can be found and removed before they have the chance to turn into cancer. Screening can also result in finding colorectal cancer early, when it is highly curable.
Diagnosing symptoms, and monitoring conditions
If you are having problems, such as diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, or bleeding, your doctor may recommend a diagnostic colon exam. If you have already been diagnosed with a colon problem, such as an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), your doctor may want to monitor your condition using a colon exam.
Screening for colorectal cancer
If you have any of the risk factors for colorectal cancer, such as a past history of polyps or if you are age 50 or older, your doctor may recommend a colon exam. Early-stage colorectal cancer does not usually have symptoms—by the time symptoms do present, the cancer is very advanced and very hard to treat. Regular screening is necessary to find these cancers in the early stages. To be most effective, this screening should provide a full and complete view of the colon.
Individuals could have higher risk for colon cancer if a member of your immediate family has had colon cancer or had polyps removed at a young age. Your doctor might suggest colon screening earlier or more frequently based on your family history.