Screen saver

There’s a strong history of colon cancer in my family. So it’s safe to say that I take the need for proper screening seriously. And for me, that means getting a colonoscopy every three years.

The standard recommendation is to get one every 10 years. But I’m well aware that most people aren’t even that diligent.

This is a very serious problem. And here’s why…

A team of researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School reviewed data from all of the colon cancer patients who received surgery there between 2004 and 2011.

Subjects included 217 patients who were diagnosed after colonoscopy, along with another 894 who were diagnosed based on symptoms or results from other tests. And needless to say, the researchers uncovered a lethal trend.

As it turns out, patients whose colon cancer diagnoses were based on symptoms–such as rectal bleeding, for example–were three times more likely to die during the study period than those whose cancer was revealed via routine colonoscopy.

But that’s not all. These patients were also significantly more likely to have cancer that had spread throughout the body… not to mention a recurrence of disease after treatment.

Roughly 75 percent of patients with symptom-based diagnoses were found to have advanced disease, compared with just 38 percent of patients who underwent colonoscopy. So that’s one factor that might explain the stark difference in mortality rates.

But at any rate, the takeaway here is crystal clear: If you’re 50 years old and you haven’t scheduled a routine colonoscopy yet, do it today.

No, it isn’t fun. But it’s low-risk (especially compared to other radiation-based forms of cancer screening). And it just might save your life.