Why You Shouldn’t Put Off Colonoscopies

Why You Shouldn’t Put Off Colonoscopies

After contracting with a publisher to write The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Victor Hugo procrastinated writing it for more than a year. Finally, six months before the manuscript was due, he locked all of his clothes away, save one shawl, so that he was forced to stay inside and finish the book. The strategy worked. He turned the book in two weeks ahead of schedule on January 31, 1831.

We hope you’re not as much of an “I’ll-do-it-later” sort as Mr. Hugo. But if you are, here’s one deadline you shouldn’t push back: Getting a colonoscopy after a positive fecal test.

A fecal test is an annual screening tool that checks for blood in your stool, an early sign of colon cancer. But it seems many folks who get a positive result don’t follow it up soon enough (or ever) with a colonoscopy to check for pre-cancerous or cancerous polyps.

Research published in JAMA shows the smart timing for that follow-up colonoscopy is now. People who waited 10 months after a positive fecal test had a 50 percent higher risk of cancer. A year out, their risk of cancer doubled and their risk of advanced cancer tripled.

However, if you have a positive fecal test, don’t panic. About three percent of people with a positive test have colon cancer. But do schedule your colonoscopy, ASAP, and certainly within nine months of the test! Removing polyps can prevent cancer development or if you have the beginnings of cancer, early treatment is almost always highly effective.