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'My first colonoscopy saved my life': Dr. Oz hopes to raise awareness of colon cancer

"Part of smart prevention is early detection," Dr. Oz explained.
/ Source: TODAY

If you’re putting off your first colonoscopy, don’t. Take it from me: My first colonoscopy saved my life.

It’s normal to be apprehensive before a medical procedure, especially this one: The prep is annoying (this is what I drink to prepare for it) and it’s easy to tell yourself you don’t have any risk factors. But you can’t let your anxiety win. Part of smart prevention is early detection.

I had absolutely no risk factors and my doctor found a pre-cancerous polyp that could have morphed into cancer had it not been removed.

I’m sharing my story during National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month to highlight the importance of getting screened on time. Here’s what you need to know about the process — as well as one adjustment to make the prep a bit easier.

When should people get their first colonoscopy?

The American Cancer Society issued new national guidelines, recommending that people at average risk of colorectal cancer start regular screening at age 45, because of the increase in colon cancer in younger people.

The major risk factors for colorectal cancer are a family history of the disease and older age, but several other factors have been associated with increased risk, including excessive alcohol use, obesity, being physically inactive, cigarette smoking and, possibly, diet.

This new age to start screening isn’t yet agreed upon by everyone though, since the prestigious U.S. Preventive Services Task Force still recommends starting at age 50 and screening until age 75. The task force is currently reviewing its own guidelines, so we may see a change in the next iteration.

If you are debating the options, talk to you doctor if you’re between ages 45-50 and recognize that the method of screening is essential. Your choices include, but are not limited to, at-home stool-based screenings like FIT, visual exams like virtual colonoscopy — which uses relies on a CT scan of the colon and rectum — or the gold standard: colonoscopy.

When it comes to what I prefer, it’s always colonoscopy. Why am I biased? Because a colonoscopy can diagnose and treat the problem in one setting, which is a unique advantage.

For more advice from Dr. Oz on this topic, click here.