Why Colonoscopies are Important for the Black Community

Written By: Women and Infants on September 7, 2021

Why are colonoscopies so important, especially for the black community?


Colorectal cancer disproportionately affects the Black community. Colorectal cancer rates among Black Americans are the highest of any racial/ethnic group in the U.S., making this community about 20% more likely to get colorectal cancer and 40% more likely to die from it than any other group. That’s why it’s important you talk to your doctor about your personal risk factors for colorectal cancer, and when you should schedule your first or follow-up colonoscopy.
The most accurate screening test for cancer and/or abnormalities of the colon and rectum (both parts of the large intestine) is a colonoscopy. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), colorectal cancer is the third most common cause of cancer-related death, which is why getting a colorectal screening is so important.
Early detection is key to saving lives because colorectal cancer has a 90% survival rate if caught early.

What are possible symptoms of colorectal cancer?

Speak with your primary care doctor if you notice any of the following:

  • A change in bowel habits
  • Feeling you need to have a bowel movement, that’s not relieved by having one
  • Visible or non-visible (occult) blood in the stool
  • Cramping or pain in the abdomen
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Losing weight without trying


The American Cancer Society’s colonoscopy screening guidelines recommend people with an average risk of colorectal cancer begin regular screenings at age 45, whether or not they are experiencing symptoms. However, if you have a close relative, such as a parent, sibling, or child, who has had colorectal cancer, your doctor may recommend you have your first colonoscopy earlier than the age of 45. Or, if you’re a Black American, your physician may also advise you to start earlier, as Black Americans are more susceptible to the disease.   

Who is at a higher risk for colorectal cancer?

If any of the following pertains to you, you may be at a greater risk for colon cancer:

  • A family history of colorectal cancer
  • A personal history of colorectal cancer
  • A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
  • A known or suspected family history of a hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome
  • A personal history of radiation to the abdomen or pelvic area to treat a prior cancer

What is a colonoscopy?

During your colonoscopy, your doctor can see inside the entire length and width of your colon and rectum.  They us a flexible, hollow, lighted tube, which has a video camera at the end. This tube (about ½ inch in diameter) is inserted into your rectum, and advanced through your colon, taking pictures along the way. These pictures give the doctor a view of the lining of your colon, so they can examine it, in real-time, for any abnormalities (such as polyps, which are growths that could be the beginnings of cancer). 

Here are some common questions associated with a colonoscopy: 

  • What if my doctor finds a poly?
If your doctor sees a polyp along the way, it will be removed, and sent to the laboratory for testing.  Removing a polyp also prevents it from getting bigger and/or turning into cancer. 
  • How long does a colonoscopy take?

The whole process takes approximately half an hour (30 minutes). 

  • How do you prepare for a colonoscopy?

Before the colonoscopy you will need to prepare by emptying the contents of your colon. This is done through diet and drinking bowel-cleaning liquids. The exact colonoscopy prep instructions will be based on your physician’s preferences.

Are there post-procedure problems?

While rare, post-colonoscopy issues can include:
  • Feeling bloated
  • Blood coming from rectum or in first bowel movement
  • Light cramping
  • Nausea
  • Rectal irritation 

Should you experience any of these after your procedure, call your doctor, especially if you have severe or prolonged abdominal pain, fever, chills, severe or prolonged bleeding, or a rapid heart rate.

What are some colonoscopy RISKS?

Colonoscopies are performed every day and are considered to be safe. However, there are some risks, while rare, you should be aware of, including:
  • Perforated intestine
  • Bleeding
  • Post-polypectomy electrocoagulation syndrome
  • Adverse reaction to the anesthetic
  • Infection

In Summary:

Prevention is key! The earlier colorectal cancer is found, the more likely it can be successfully treated. The typical symptoms of colorectal cancer may also be caused by other conditions, but they could also be signs of cancer. You won’t know unless you have a colorectal screening, to determine what is going on with your health.

Schedule a colonoscopy to keep you healthy and living your best life.

Schedule A Colonoscopy


Disclaimer: The content in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only and should not serve as medical advice, consultation, or diagnosis.  If you have a medical concern, please consult your healthcare provider, or seek immediate medical treatment.