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Within the safe and welcoming environment of my office, I invite my patients to ask me questions regarding their gynecologic health. I assure them no question is silly or embarrassing. This blog will serve as a resource for me to share real patient questions with my answers and insight. While my responses are based on my medical knowledge and the latest scientific literature, the information provided is not meant to replace a medical consult with your physician.


Dear Dr. Hanna,

I was at lunch with my girlfriend whose doctor recommended she have colon cancer screening. She is only 45 and has no family history of colon cancer. We both thought screening began at age 50. Next year I will turn 45 and do not want to have a colonoscopy. I heard it is an awful experience! I eat lots of fiber every day and believe my colon is very happy. Please set us straight.

Thank you,
Happy Colon

Dear Happy Colon,

First I must ask, how do you know your colon is happy? Did you know that early stages of colon cancer often cause no symptoms? Colon cancer screening detects abnormal cells while they are small, easier to treat and often before a person has any symptoms. The American Cancer Society recently stated that colon cancer is on the rise in women and men younger than age 65. Their most recent guidelines recommend beginning colon cancer screening at age 45. There are many different options for colon cancer screening including both stool-based tests and visual tests.

Stool-based tests are usually done at home. Many of my patients find stool-based tests easier than having a colonoscopy and in low risk women, I am all for it. However, there is a downside. Stool-based tests need to be done more frequently, can miss many polyps/cancers and can have false positive results. If your test is positive, you will need to have a colonoscopy to see if you have cancer. I usually recommend the stool DNA test if my patient is low risk and voice they will not schedule a colonoscopy. A kit is usually sent directly to your home, which contains all the necessary supplies for collection. The instructions are easy to follow and results are sent to your physician. This test should be done every 3 years (if negative).

The most popular visual test recommended is screening colonoscopy. Colonoscopy is usually performed as an out-patient procedure under sedation. The evening prior, you will clean out your colon by drinking fluid or taking tablets that make you have many bowel movements. That is usually the “awful experience” you heard about. Most people do not even remember the actual procedure and say it was easy.

Next year, when you turn 45, check with your insurance for coverage and then make sure your colon is happy. In the meantime, keep eating a healthy diet rich in fiber, exercise and limit your alcohol intake. Oh, and if you smoke, please quit!

Dr. Hanna

The content is meant for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Please seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Barbra S. Hanna, DO, FACOG, NCMP
1604 North Main Street  •  Wheaton, Illinois 60187  •  630-260-1818