Experts: Get Colonoscopies After Age 50

The powers of the presidency were temporarily transferred today under the 25th Amendment. While President Bush was sedated for a colonoscopy, Vice President Cheney assumed presidential powers, which have now been transferred back. But it will be two or three days before it is known if President Bush has a clean bill of health because doctors found five small growths.

ABC News' David Muir spoke with ABC News' medical editor Dr. Timothy Johnson about the findings and the need for Americans to get colonoscopies.

David Muir: Dr. Tim, what do you make of the findings today after the president's exam.

Johnson: Well, although these appear to be very small growths -- polyps as we call them, pre-cancerous growths -- and we think that it takes about 10 years from this stage to the development of full-blown cancer, which is why, theoretically, colon cancer should be a 100 percent preventable if people get regular colonoscopies. The colonoscopy allows us to look at the entire colon, and if we find these early growths to remove them, preventing them from developing into cancer. That is why we are so strong in our recommendation for regular colonoscopy.

Muir: And when should people go for those colonoscopies?

Johnson: We recommend that everyone have one starting at age 50. ... Now, if you find nothing, you can probably go up to 10 years before you have another one. If you find some polyps, as in the case of President Bush, you will do it more frequently, within a couple of years. So the frequency of colonoscopy will depend on what you find with the first or subsequent exams.

Muir: And there has been more attention paid to these colonoscopies in recent years -- [with] people so fearful of the procedure itself.

Johnson: Well, the preparation the night before is the difficult part. Euphemistically, we call it cleaning out the bowel. But in fact, the procedure itself is very easy. You get IV sedation, most people will sleep through it, will have no memory of it, there is no pain or bowel syndrome. The procedure itself is really very, very easy.

Muir: Our medical editor, Dr. Timothy Johnson tonight. Dr. Tim, thank you.