Believe it or not … the doctor you choose to do your colonoscopy actually matters. A new study shows that the doctor makes a difference in whether you’ll develop colon cancer or die from it. While it’s easy to pick the doctor that offers the best price or that your insurance company will pay the most for, this new study shows that higher-quality colonoscopies were associated with 50-60% lower risk for colon cancer and colon cancer fatalities over a patient’s lifetime.

Your doctor could mean the difference between life and death. Is a lower-quality screening a risk you’re willing to take? 

The American Cancer Society recommends that people get a screening every 5 or 10 years starting at the age of 50. In order to assess how the effectiveness of the screening may affect a patient’s future cancer risk, the scientists looked at data concerning nearly 57,600 patients who underwent colonoscopies performed by 136 different doctors between 1998 and 2010.  

What they found was that colonoscopies, regardless of the quality, saves lives. However, in order to find the best doctor with the best results for the job, they recommend ensuring that your doctor has the appropriate training in colonoscopy and, if possible, can quote their adenoma detection rate for a screening colonoscopy. Generally if the doctor is a member of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, it’s a good sign that their performance quality has been well researched ahead of time.  

Remember, colon cancer is easy to stop if it’s caught in time. It’s recommended that you get a colonoscopy when you turn 50, but if you have the following symptoms beforehand, it’s a good idea to go ahead get a colonoscopy:

  • Blood in or on your stool
  • Frequent and unattributed pain, aches, or cramps in your stomach
  • A change in bowel habits, like having stools that are narrower than usual
  • Constipation or diarrhea unrelated to recent meals
  • Unattributed weight loss

Often these symptoms are caused by something other than cancer, but it’s always a good idea to get it checked anyway.