published Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Ask A Doctor: Is a colonoscopy really necessary to get screened for colorectal cancer?

By Dr. J. Scott Manton

Q: I dread the thought of having a colonoscopy. Is it really necessary to get screened for colorectal cancer?

A: Yes, it's incredibly important to be screened for colorectal cancer. A colonoscopy can save your life. Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Only lung cancer kills more. Colonrectal cancer affects both men and women. About 80 percent of patients have no family history of the disease. Colorectal cancer doesn't always cause symptoms, so you can have it and not know it. Regular colonoscopies, beginning at age 50, can prevent colorectal cancer in many cases. Colorectal cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable. As for the colonoscopy itself, there's really nothing to be nervous about. Patients are sedated for the exam. During the colonoscopy, any precancerous polyps found are removed, which lowers your risk of developing colorectal cancer by as much as 70 to 90 percent. The risks of the procedure are minimal, especially when performed by a gastroenterologist who specializes in conditions of the digestive system.

— Dr. J. Scott Manton, Digestive Health Associates; member, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society

Readers: To submit a health-related question for a medical doctor, email it to Wesley Holloway at See this space each week for answers.

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