If you're in your thirties and generally healthy, you likely don't put much thought into the medical screenings recommended in your forties and fifties -- mammograms, prostate exams, and colonoscopies. However, there are some situations in which seeking a colonoscopy while in your thirties or forties could help identify a problem that may have proven fatal before your first recommended exam. Read on to learn more about some of the issues a colonoscopy can be used to diagnose, as well as the situations in which having a colonoscopy performed in your thirties could save you medical bills (and worry) down the road.
What problems may a colonoscopy reveal?
A colonoscopy involves the use of a tiny, flexible video camera to allow a physician to view the inside of your colon to identify any polyps, blockages, or potential cancer growths. A colonoscopy can also be used to view colon inflammation that could indicate irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diverticulitis, or Crohn's disease.
Because many types of colon problems can pose few symptoms until they've spread significantly, it's important to have a colonoscopy periodically performed to ensure everything is in good working order.
Under what circumstances should you have a colonoscopy in your thirties or earlier?
Most physicians recommend having your first colonoscopy the year you turn 50, but there are a few situations in which you may want to move this appointment up -- sometimes even having your first screening before you hit your early to mid-thirties.
If you have a strong family history of colon cancer, particularly if you've had a parent develop serious colon cancer in his or her early to mid-thirties, it's possible you carry the gene for familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). This genetic disorder is passed down from a parent with the condition and has the dubious distinction of a 100 percent cancer rate for affected individuals.
Those with a single parent with FAP have a 50 percent chance of being born with the disorder, while individuals with two parents who have FAP have a 100 percent chance of developing colon cancer unless significant preventive measures are taken. In fact, if you have FAP and plan to wait until your fiftieth birthday for your first colonoscopy, odds are high that you'll be dead even before your fortieth birthday. You'll need to begin having frequent screenings before you hit your teen years.
Another genetic disorder can also necessitate early colonoscopies. Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) causes the growth of multiple potentially cancerous polyps in your colon, but does not carry the high cancer rate and early polyp development associated with FAP. You'll usually be able to put off your first screening until you're in your mid-twenties. If you don't have one of these two disorders, you shouldn't need to have a colonoscopy performed before the recommended age unless you're having bowel symptoms like excessive gas, bloody stool, or abdominal pain.
For more information, contact Clinical Gastrointestinal Associates, PC or a similar organization.