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Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States, and getting screened beginning at a certain age is of utmost importance. Most doctors agree that people should have their first colonoscopy at the age of 50. If you have a first-degree relative with colorectal cancer, your screening should begin at the age of 40, or 10 years younger than the relative was when originally diagnosed.

There's no question that a screening can save your life. However, some wonder whether a colonoscopy procedure is the best. As the most widely used colon cancer screening, a colonoscopy examination of the large intestine allows for an entire view of the colon and rectum. A standard procedure takes approximately 30 minutes and the patient is given medication to sleep while the colonoscope is used to view the intestinal tract.

Both the colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy are used to as a test to detect colon polyps or colon cancer. In comparison, though, the sigmoidoscopy method surveys only the lower part of the colon and the rectum. At 2' long, a sigmoidoscope is able to see less than half (the lower 1/3rd) of the colon. Although the sigmoidoscopy does require less prep on the part of the patient, less sedation, and takes an average time of 15-20 minutes. The major disadvantage of a sigmoidoscopy is that it only allows viewing and removal of precancerous colon polyps from the left side of the colon, where two out of three colon cancers develop.

If caught early, removing colorectal polyps/cancer can save your life, so undergoing one of these procedures can be of utmost importance. Discussing options with your doctor is key in selecting the right procedure for you. When performed by a licensed and trained professional, both procedures are a safe way to protect your health.