Is it compulsory to go for a colonoscopy after 50?



According to the American Cancer Society, you should go for a colonoscopy if you are above 45. Several other guidelines recommend screening. Experts say that colonoscopies have been very effective in detecting colon cancer in early stages. This has greatly brought down the incidences of colon cancer in the States. 


Although experts believe that screening is an effective way to prevent colon cancer, a recent study suggests otherwise. The findings of this study are suggestive of the fact that routine colonoscopies after 50, is not absolutely compulsory. 


New Study on Need of Colonoscopy-

Recent studies from a medical journal state that such screening is not absolutely necessary. The research finds an innovative method of various personalized medicines that can be used to change screening procedures. Furthermore, it also adds that physicians and health authorities should acknowledge that it is not a necessity for everyone belonging to the age group 50 to 79 to opt for routine bowel screening. The panel of the research suggests that using a calculator to get an estimate of the age at which colorectal cancer can develop should be implemented. 

Research around the globe


Colonoscopies are generally safe. But in the rarest of cases, a tear or bleeding in the bowel can also occur. The research group, with this thought in their mind, undertook this study to find out if the benefits outweighed the risk. Researchers noted that people above 50 years majorly have a low-risk of developing bowel cancer even after 15 years. Hence, they came to the conclusion that undergoing a colonoscopy at this age is not compulsory. The researchers ultimately concluded that the benefits don’t outweigh the risk. 


Many health experts don’t tend to be in support of these findings. Doctors say that 40 percent of patients over 50 visiting for their first procedure have pre-cancerous polyps that can turn into cancer over time. If the findings are solidified into guidelines then people won’t visit the doctors and the problem would remain undiagnosed. For a specific segment of doctors, the findings are ‘weak recommendations’.  They deem the findings ‘weak’ by saying that each patient requires a different treatment option. Doctors make decisions on the basis of individual cases and then act accordingly. 


Need For A Colonoscopy In India


Colon cancer ranks 8th while rectal cancer ranks 9th among Indian men. A study in 12 cancer registries of India stated that the risk of colorectal cancer (CRC) is significantly low. The reason for such a low incidence is mainly our healthy diet. Our Indian diet is rich in fruits and vegetables which is very low in calories. But our lifestyle and diet, both have changed. These changes have physically impacted the age group 35-40 years. 

colon cancer awareness ribbon

There is a misconception that colorectal cancer (CRC) is a disease that affects only the elderly. But the facts portray a different scenario. According to a study, there were two key observations-


  • A decrease in the percentage of people above 50 years of age suffering from colon cancer. 
  • Increase in the incidence of this cancer in adults who are below 50 years.* 


* statistics taken from Indian Journal of Medical and Paediatric Oncology 


Although the above-mentioned facts are alarming, the majority of CRC is preventable. With proper screening and early detection, the problem can be easily treated. This is where colonoscopy plays an important role. This screening procedure helps to prevent CRC by looking for precancerous growths in the rectum. Early detection helps in early treatment. If you observe something abnormal, it can be easily treated with surgeries such as colectomy. Leaving these conditions untreated for long, only aggravates the problem. 

Also Read: When is the Right time to go for a Colonoscopy?


To Screen Or Not Screen?


During a colonoscopy, the doctors check for any cancerous tumors or polyps in the rectum or colon that can turn into cancer. Several people diagnosed with colon cancer experience any symptoms such as abdominal pain, change in bowel habits and bleeding. Most patients diagnosed with colon cancer don’t feel anything until they are diagnosed. 

Yes or No?

Although there can be new studies that say that there is no need to undergo a colonoscopy, an increasing number of CRC patients in India suggest otherwise. The percentage of CRC in India is expected to rise by 80 percent thereby, making it one of the most common diseases. The government should include in its future health plans some standard health guidelines (including screening procedures such as colonoscopies) for every citizen so that the problem is diagnosed in its nascent stage. The majority of colonoscopies tend to be negative. Hence, if you undergo a colonoscopy and the results were negative, you can rest easily for up to 10 years.


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