I am 32 and have a family history of colon cancer, with a grandfather and two cousins dying of the illness (one at about 45 years old). Should I get a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy soon?
We are in the same boat. My grandfather died of colon cancer, and my father had it too, although he’s been cured. I have such a strong family history that I know I’m also going to get it.
The scary news about colon cancer is that it is the number two cause of cancer deaths. But the good news is that many of those deaths are preventable. Colon cancer has a very high cure rate if it is caught in the early stages. It is only when the cancer starts to spread beyond the colon that successful treatment becomes more difficult. So early detection can make a life and death difference.
Your family history tells you you are at high risk of colon cancer, so I think it’s wise for you to be regularly screened for the disease, starting now. You should talk with your doctor about what kind of screening program would be appropriate, and whether you should see a specialist, a gastroenterologist.
In a colonoscopy, the entire colon (large intestine) is examined for signs of cancer, polyps, or other irregularities. A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a less invasive procedure in which only a portion of the colon is checked. I’m in my mid-forties, and I have a colonoscopy each year, but that may not be the appropriate screening program for you.
In addition to a screening program, there are a number of things you can do that may reduce your risk of getting colon cancer. One is eating a diet low in meat and rich in fiber and fruits and vegetables (especially those containing the vitamin, folic acid). Regular aerobic exercise has also been associated with a lower risk of colon cancer.