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Colonoscopy for preventive care saves lives, but it is still vastly underutilized!

During preventive colonoscopy or "colon cancer screening," the goal is to detect and remove polyps or adenomas in the colon, as these can later develop into colorectal cancer. Statistically, one in four individuals over the age of 50 has such polyps.

Colonoscopy is the most effective cancer prevention method of all. This is mainly due to two reasons:

  • Firstly, it takes a relatively long time for a polyp to develop into colorectal cancer. This gives you a large window of opportunity to detect polyps during screening colonoscopy.
  • Second, if polyps are discovered, they are also removed immediately. That means, the risk factor of having a polyp or adenoma is not only identified but also immediately eliminated.

Screening colonoscopy is an examination that can now be performed completely painlessly and safely. The examination is carried out under sedation, this means the patient sleeps through the entire examination. The term “gentle endoscopy” is also used for this.

The intervals until the next screening colonoscopy depend on whether there are relatives in the family with colorectal cancer, whether polyps were found during the first screening colonoscopy and, if so, exactly what type of tissue they contained. Ideally, there should be up to 10 years between screening colonoscopies.

Despite the fact that this examination can now be carried out painlessly and colorectal cancer can be prevented very efficiently, far too few people still take advantage of the possibility of colorectal cancer screening. Only a very small proportion of the population over the age of 50 take advantage of the opportunity to prevent the development of colorectal cancer.

Men should have their first colorectal cancer screening at the age of 45 and women at the age of 50.

OA Dr. Gregor Ulbrich is a senior physician and specialist in internal medicine, gastroenterology and hepatology. His focus is on internal medicine, gastrointestinal and liver diseases.