When I was 20 years old, my parents began urging me to get a colonoscopy. At the time, I was frustrated, inconvenienced, and didn’t understand why.
My parents argued that I was susceptible to pre-cancerous polyps — that my sister was only 30 when she had several small growths removed from her body. She was already a wife, already a mother, so the thought of foreboding cancer growing somewhere in her body was terrifying.
But I wouldn’t go. I didn’t understand — and I actively refused to — how my sister’s health impacted my own. I was less than enthralled about the bowel-cleansing prep involved pre-screening and even less enthusiastic about the rather unpleasant procedure itself. So I wouldn’t budge.
The general rule is to get a colonoscopy 10 years before your relative was diagnosed. So if my sister was 30 when her polyps were removed, I should theoretically be getting my first colonoscopy at 20, which serves to support my parents reasoning. But should we really be looking at this even younger?
In fact, when a relative is diagnosed younger than 50 (which is the normal age when colonoscopy screenings are encouraged), the risk of a family member developing colorectal cancer increases to three to six times than if the disease didn’t run in the family.
In order to do this, a screening is required. Ask yourself the questions below to find out if it’s time for you to get your first colonoscopy.
- Does colon cancer run in your family?
- If so, at what age was your relative diagnosed with cancerous or precancerous polyps?
- Do you suffer from inflammatory bowel disease or any other gastrointestinal disease?
If you responded yes to any of these qualifying questions, it may be worth discussing with your doctor to get an official medical opinion.