Over screening for cancer is nothing short of a national disaster.

PSA tests and mammograms have created a generation of men and women battling the lifelong side effects of devastating treatments they didn't need because the cancers never would have hurt them in the first place.

But there's one screening that's different -- a screening that can detect a deadly cancer and remove it at the same time.

And if you're like most people, it's the very one you've been avoiding: the colonoscopy.

Now, a landmark new study in the New England Journal of Medicine shows why you shouldn't be avoiding yours. In fact, these findings may have you calling your doctor today to schedule it -- because data on 2,602 patients tracked for 15 years finds that colonoscopies can slash your risk of dying of colon cancer by 53 percent.

But despite the fact that colonoscopies save lives, only half of the people who should get scoped actually do.

It's not hard to see why. A colonoscopy sounds about as pleasant as...well...a colonoscopy.

In reality, it's not nearly as bad as you'd think.

Thanks to the anesthesia, you won't feel a thing during the procedure itself. The worst part is actually the night before, when you'll have to take a preparation that'll empty your bowels.

All I can say is, get a good book and stay close to a toilet.

To make it easier on you, schedule your colonoscopy for first thing in the morning. Since you can't eat until the procedure is done, you won't spend the day hungry -- and you won't spend the day stressing over it, either.

But that's not the only reason you want to be the early bird on this one: Several studies have shown that doctors detect more polyps early in the day than they do in the afternoon.

Finally, some doctors offer a less-thorough version of the colonoscopy called the sigmoidoscopy. Others will try to get you to pay extra for a "virtual" colonoscopy.

Both of them may be tempting. They both might sound a little more comfortable and a little less invasive.

Don't fall for it. When it comes to colon screenings, nothing beats the real thing: A genuine colonoscopy by a competent doctor.

If you're past 50 and haven't had one or are overdue for your next one, no more excuses. Pick up the phone and schedule yours today.