The truth about colonoscopy
If your physician told you that a simple procedure could prevent cancer, would you hesitate? Not likely. What if the procedure was a colonoscopy? Would your opinion change?
Misconceptions that colonoscopy is painful, embarrassing or risky often deter people from getting screened. In reality, this screening should be considered a lifesaver, and not feared. “Almost all colon cancers are preventable if they’re found and removed early using colonoscopy,” says Manish Chokshi, M.D., gastroenterologist with The Christ Hospital. “In fact, those who have the screening reduce their chances of colon cancer by more than75 percent.”
Providing a clear view
Colonoscopy can prevent colon cancer by finding and removing suspicious masses before they become malignant. During a colonoscopy, physicians use a small flexible scope to view the inner lining of the colon and spot any abnormalities, such as polyps, which are often precursors to colon cancer.
Colonoscopy also allows gastroenterologists to:
- Diagnose chronic gastrointestinal conditions, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
- Perform instant biopsies by collecting colon tissue
- Remove tumors
- Identify ulcers, hemorrhoids and inflammation
When to start screening
Knowing when to screen is as important as understanding what a colonoscopy can do for you. If you answer ‘yes’ to any of the following questions, talk to your physician about scheduling a colonoscopy:
- Do I have a personal history of polyps, colitis or Crohn’s disease? Chronic inflammatory conditions of the colon can trigger cancer. The longer you’ve had the disease (8+ years) and the larger the area affected, the greater the risk. Closely communicate with your physician about when to start screening.
- Does colon cancer or digestive disease run in my family? If an immediate family member (parent, sibling, or child) has had colon cancer or an inflammatory disease, begin annual colorectal screening early. Get tips on starting the conversation about colon health with your family here.
- Am I age 50 or older? The American Cancer Society guidelines and The Christ Hospital recommend adults with no family history or other risk factors start screening at age 50.
What to expect
For a successful colonoscopy, the bowel must be free of residue so the physician can clearly see the lining of the colon. In preparation for the test, patients drink a solution the night before the exam to cleanse the bowel. “New agents make the bowel prep much more tolerable for patients,” Dr. Chokshi says.
The day of the procedure, patients are given pain medication and sedatives to lessen any discomfort during the procedure. A typical colonoscopy lasts about 30 minutes, followed by a short recovery as the sedation wears off.
If no polyps are found during the first colonoscopy, patients can wait 10 years until scheduling the next exam, unless they experience changes in their bowel habits. If benign polyps are found, patients should follow up with a colonoscopy every three to five years.
Still unsure if you can tolerate the screening? “When patients find out their colonoscopy was normal or a pre-cancerous polyp was removed which prevent colon cancer, their feelings of relief outweigh any prior uneasiness,” says Dr. Chokshi.
Find a physician who can help you schedule a colonoscopy by calling 877-904-4YOU or visiting www.TheChristHospital.com.