Should You Insist On A Colonoscopy If You're Young And Healthy?

If you've recently begun experiencing some stomach or bowel problems that leave you wondering whether something serious is afoot, you may find your concerns being brushed off by your primary care physician if you're young and don't have any family history of colon polyps or colon cancer. Because colonoscopies can be an invasive and somewhat time-consuming procedure, many doctors are reluctant to order them for patients who don't demonstrate risk factors for colon cancer and other colon issues. 

However, news of rapidly-rising rates of colon cancer among members of Generation X and the Millennial Generation (loosely defined as those between ages 20 and 45) could leave you worried that your gastrointestinal problems are the earliest symptoms of a much more severe issue. Read on to learn more about some of the symptoms that should prompt a colonoscopy even for those who are relatively young and otherwise healthy. 

Bloody stools

In many cases, traces of blood in one's stool can indicate hemorrhoids or even just some mild gastric irritation caused by spicy food. However, blood that is darker in color or resembles coffee grounds is more likely to be "old" blood, which can indicate a bigger and more long-term problem in your intestines.

Even if the blood you're seeing is bright and appears fresh, if you don't have hemorrhoids or another plausible explanation for it, a colonoscopy may be your best bet to gain some answers. 

Narrow stools

Another symptom that can be a telltale sign of colon cancer (but may also be nothing at all) is a sudden narrowing of your stools. While slightly narrow stools may be easily attributed to a change in diet or even added stress in your life, the sudden appearance of pencil-thin stools can indicate an obstruction in your lower bowel. Having a colonoscopy performed can ensure any polyps or other growths present in your intestines can be biopsied and monitored if necessary. 

Unexplained change in bowel habits

Any long-term change in your bowel habits that can't be explained by a corresponding change in your diet, exercise, or personal routine may need to be checked out sooner rather than later. If you've always been a twice-per-day kind of person and suddenly find you're having a bowel movement only once every few days, this change can indicate underlying issues that may need to be addressed. 

In many cases, a change in your bowel habits doesn't indicate colon cancer, but irritable bowel syndrome, irritable bowel disease, or a food intolerance. While these conditions are often relatively harmless, failure to diagnose or treat them can lead to longer-term digestive and health-related problems, so early detection is key. Contact a doctor, like Lincoln Surgical Group PC, for more help.