Years after Dr. Mehmet Oz had his first colonoscopy in August of 2010, he’s ready to share about his personal health scare and why he’s grateful that he didn’t put off the diagnostic procedure.
Today, he calls his first colonoscopy “a big wake-up call”. His doctor had found and removed a sizeable polyp from his colon, which he says could have developed into colon cancer. (1)
“I had absolutely no risk factors and my doctor found a pre-cancerous polyp that could have morphed into cancer had it not been removed,” Oz says. Months later, at a follow-up screening, a second polyp was found. (1)
“It means that my colon is predisposed to making polyps, which has [affected] my life a little bit. I’ll have to have frequent colonoscopies.”
Is a Colonoscopy Your Only Option?
Put simply, no. A colonoscopy is one of many effective cancer screening methods, which is beneficial in some cases, and not beneficial in others. Other types of colorectal cancer screening methods include: (2)
- Highly sensitive fecal immunochemical test (FIT)
- Highly sensitive guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT)
- Multi-targeted stool DNA test (MT-sDNA)
- CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy)
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy (FSIG)
Dr. Oz does share his perspective on colorectal cancer screening options: “When it comes to what I prefer, it’s always colonoscopy. Why am I biased? Because a colonoscopy can diagnose and treat the problem in one setting, which is a unique advantage.”(1)
What Age Should You Start Screening for Colon Cancer?
Here at The Hearty Soul, we’ve shared why colon cancer has become more common among younger people in recent years. What was once thought of as cancer for people over their 60’s is now being found in adults in their forties, thirties, and even younger. One 32-year old mom dismissed symptoms as IBS or ulcerative colitis and was blindsided by a diagnosis of colon cancer. You can finish reading her story here.
In the United States, the average adult is recommended to start screening for colorectal cancer at age 45. This includes either a stool test or a visual exam. Colonoscopies are not necessary for people over the age of 75, and not recommended after the age of 85. (2)
2016 Canadian guidelines advised against using colonoscopy screening in asymptomatic older adults and adults who don’t have any risk factors. Dr. Maria Bacchus, an internist at the University of Calgary who chaired the guideline working group explains that her team simply didn’t find the evidence that a colonoscopy was better than other screening tests for every type of patient. (3)
To date, the Canadian guidelines for colorectal cancer screening are as follows: (4)
- Canadians ages 50-74 with no family history of colorectal cancer are eligible for a fecal occult blood test every other year, or they can opt for a flexible sigmoidoscopy screening once every ten years.
- People with a family history of colorectal cancer are eligible for colonoscopy screening starting at 10 years younger than their relative had their diagnosis, or age 50- whichever comes first. For example, if your sister was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at age 62, you should get your first colonoscopy at age 50. Waiting until you’re 52 could miss a critical window.
American Guidelines recommend: (5)
- People at average risk* of colorectal cancer start regular screening at age 45
- People at increased or high risk of colorectal cancer might need to start colorectal cancer screening before age 45, be screened more often, and/or get specific tests
- People who are in good health and with a life expectancy of more than 10 years should continue regular colorectal cancer screening through the age of 75.
- For people ages 76 through 85, the decision to be screened should be based on a person’s preferences, life expectancy, overall health, and prior screening history.
- People over 85 should no longer get colorectal cancer screening.
- Screening options include stool-based tests or Visual (structural) exams of the colon and rectum
Dr. Oz’s Tips for Preparing for Your First Colonoscopy
“People often think they should eat extra food before the prep, stuffing themselves so they won’t be hungry when it’s time to go on a liquid diet. That’s the worst thing you can do!” Instead, Dr. Oz recommends the following tips for the day before your colonoscopy: (1)
- Eat a very light breakfast, earlier than you usually would.
- Avoid grains, fiber, and especially seeds and beans, which can look like a polyp to your gastroenterologist.
- Follow your prescribed clear liquid diet, but don’t drink anything red, purple, or blue. These could affect the colonoscopy view.
- Don’t drink anything 4 hours before the procedure (really don’t).
“You don’t fool around with the third most common cause of cancer,” Dr. Oz reflects. (1)
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