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Colonoscopies: The lifesaving facts

Work your way through our colon health decision tree

March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month and we are pleased to share that The Portland Clinic is partnering with the American Cancer Society for the 80% by 2018 initiative. Our goal is to see that, by 2018, 80 percent of the eligible US population is screened for this highly preventable disease.

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When it comes to colon cancer screenings, TV shows, films, social media and countless comedians have joked about the colonoscopy. While it’s true that spending time on the exam table for this test is not necessarily anyone’s idea of a fun morning, there’s a lot of misinformation about the procedure and its impact. Most importantly, colonoscopies save lives. Colorectal cancer is the most preventable cancer known to date, but ranks as the second-leading cause of cancer-related death in the US. In fact, The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2016 alone there will be more than 140,000 new cases causing an estimated 49,000 deaths. That said, the vast majority of cases arise from precancerous polyps, which can be detected and removed when identified early. Second, when it comes to prevention, a colonoscopy is still by far the most effective of all the screening options available. This is due to the fact that a colonoscopy is the most reliable way for your doctor to detect precancerous polyps and treat you right away. Importantly, the quality of a colonoscopy is measured by the ability of the physician to detect polyps. Gastroenterologists at The Portland Clinic far exceed the standard and have polyp detection rates 3x higher than the national average as well as some of the best in the metro area. While the lead-up to the test may cause some anxiety, the screening itself is painless and can be completed relatively quickly. In some cases, a colonoscopy may only take 30 to 45 minutes, although your test may take longer depending on a variety of factors. But really, isn’t it worth it to potentially save your life? For patients with no history of colon cancer in their family, or additional risk factors, we recommend beginning the screening process at age 50.  If that’s you, please speak to your doctor about your risk of colon cancer and about getting screened. Together we can beat colorectal cancer!