While 50 is the general benchmark age at which an individual should undergo a first colonoscopy, other factors are considerations.
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In August, actor Will Smith vlogged humorously about his first colonoscopy to encourage others to undergo the procedure: “I’m 50 and people need to look up my stuff.”
But why are colonoscopies so important? Dr. Darrell Gray, a gastroenterologist at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, shared these reasons:
• Opportunity to evaluate clearly the state of one’s colon and a specific section of the small intestine
• Diagnostic evaluation to determine such health issues as inflammatory bowel disease
• Colorectal cancer screening (“in which the goal is to either interrupt the process of progression of a precancerous polyp, adenoma, to cancer or detect a cancer at an early stage”)
• Opportunity to remove polyps
Gray said that while 50 is the general benchmark age at which an individual should undergo a first colonoscopy, other factors are considerations.
“The American College of Gastroenterology and the U.S. Multisociety Task Force recommends that African Americans start at age 45,” he said. “For those who have a family history, screening starts earlier and the ask age at which they start depends on the age that the family member was diagnosed and how many family members were affected.”
The dreaded “bowel prep” solutions that must be consumed to clean out the colon before the procedure have “undergone evolution over the years” to attempt to lessen unpleasantness, Gray said, adding “… what has been demonstrated to be the most effective is either having a split-dose prep (½ of the prep the night before the procedure and the other ½ the morning of) or a same-day prep (in which all of the prep is successfully completed on the day of the procedure).”
Smith concluded his vlog by pointing out the importance of the 24-hour obligation required to obtain a colonoscopy.
“Gotta get our health right,” he tells viewers. “There is a certain amount of commitment and responsibility in getting our health right, but gotta do it!”
Many insurance companies cover colonoscopy costs, but organizations such as the Colorectal Cancer Alliance may provide assistance for the uninsured.