Brownwood News – Men and women approaching age 50 often shudder when their doctor informs them it’s almost time for a screening colonoscopy. But regular screening, beginning at age 50, is the key to preventing colorectal cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States, reports the American Cancer Society. And, when men and women are combined, it’s the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. 

The good news is that with early detection – through a colonoscopy – the survival rate dramatically increases. If colon cancer is detected before it spreads, the five-year survival rate is about 90 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute, but if not caught before the cancer spreads to other organs, the survival rate dips to about 10 percent.

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a procedure that allows a doctor, usually a gastroenterologist, to see inside the colon and rectum. Used as either a screening test or a diagnostic tool, it can help your doctor investigate early signs of cancer in the colon and rectum, as well as help diagnose the causes of unexplained changes in bowel habits such as abdominal pain, rectal bleeding and weight loss. While you’re sedated, the doctor will insert a thin, long, flexible, lighted tube (a colonscope) into your rectum and slowly guide it into your colon. The scope transmits an image of the inside of the colon onto a screen so the doctor can carefully examine the lining of the colon. 

If anything abnormal is observed, such as a polyp (growth), it is painlessly removed at that time and later tested in a laboratory for signs of cancer. Since most colorectal cancer begins as a polyp, removing polyps early is an effective prevention method. Your doctor can also take samples from abnormal –looking tissues (a biopsy) so that suspicious areas can be examined.

A colonoscopy takes 30 to 60 minutes, but you will need to remain at your doctor’s facility for one to two hours until the sedative wears off.

How Often?

The American Cancer Society recommends that screening for colon cancer should begin at age 50 for both men and women who are of average risk for developing colorectal cancer. Your doctor can advise you about the right time to begin, as well as testing frequency, but industry guidelines suggest that a repeat screening be conducted every 10 years for adults with normal risk. People at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer may need to be tested earlier than age 50 and more frequently, as determined by your doctor.  

Depending on your age, a colonoscopy screening may be a covered wellness test under your insurance plan, and most plans cover a colonoscopy completely as a follow-up test or diagnostic tool. Check with your insurance provider and your doctor’s office for help scheduling a screening exam.

Heart of Texas Gastroenterology located at 100 South Park Drive, Brownwood, Texas provides local Gastroenterology Services at Brownwood Regional Medical Center.  Remember, regular screening, beginning at age 50, is the key to preventing colorectal cancer. Now is the time to request from your Primary Care Physician an order to have your screening completed. Don’t be fooled by Colon Cancer Myths and Truths. If you do not have a Primary Care Physician, please go to

and choose Find a Doctor tab or request a list by email under the Contact Us tab.

The American Cancer Society wants to be sure people have the facts about colon cancer.

Myth 1: Colorectal cancer is a man’s disease.

Truth: Colorectal cancer is just as common among women as men.

Myth 2: Colon cancer can’t be prevented.

Truth: Colon cancer often starts with a small polyp. If found early, doctors can remove the polyp and stop colon cancer before it begins.

Myth 3: African-Americans aren’t at risk for colon cancer.

Truth: African-Americans are diagnosed with and die from colorectal cancer at higher rates than any other racial or ethnic group.

Myth 4: Age isn’t a factor in developing colon cancer.

Truth: More than 90 percent of people diagnosed with colon cancer are ages 50 and older. 

Myth 5: It’s better not to get tested for colon cancer because it’s fatal regardless.

Truth: Colon cancer is treatable. With early detection, the five-year survival rate is 90 percent.