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Have You Had Your Colonoscopy Today?

Have You Had Your Colonoscopy Today?

In a recent Sharecare poll, 64.5% of our newsletter readers named a colonoscopy as the health test that makes them most squeamish, beating out Pap smears, blood tests and breast exams. Perhaps that “eww” factor is why, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of three adults aren’t getting screened for colon cancer when they should.

When I heard this, I thought of my best friend.

Because of her family history—her mother had had colon cancer, and beat it—my friend knew she was at risk. Some guidelines say most people should begin having colonoscopies at age 50, while others say 45, and possibly earlier if colon cancer runs in the family.

My friend knew all that. But with three young kids and a busy household to run—and besides, she had no symptoms—she put off the colonoscopy for a couple of years. By the time she got around to having it, the cancer had already spread to her liver. Six months later, my happy, fun-loving, always-in-control friend died. She was 47.

Heartbreaking? Yes. Especially because it didn’t have to happen. According to the CDC, as many as 60 percent of all deaths from colon cancer could be prevented if everyone over age 50 got screened. And here’s more good news about colonoscopies:

The prep is not as bad as you think. Having a colonoscopy once meant having to down a gallon of foul-tasting stuff the day before—and staying close to a bathroom afterward. Now there are other options, including split dosages and laxatives in pill form, that make the prep work easier to swallow.

They work. According to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, a study by major cancer groups found that deaths from colon cancer fell nearly 5% from 2002 to 2004, in large part because of screening tools, including colonoscopies.

Is it time to schedule yours? Do it today.

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

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