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Debunking Five Common Fears About Colon Screening

March 17, 2017 at midnight

Most people shy away from getting a colon screening; the idea of a doctor inserting a camera into their body is distressing. So, why bother?

In the US, colorectal cancer is the second most deadly type of cancer—it killed 49,190 people last year alone. Given that figure, medical professionals will frequently recommend a screening, also known as a colonoscopy, in an attempt to either detect the early onset of or even prevent colon cancer. Unfortunately, several misconceptions about the procedure make people needlessly averse to it. These are that:

1. The pre-surgery prep is difficult

It's not the actual procedure that people are most apprehensive about; it's what happens before that has them worried. For the screening to be successful, the colon has to be empty. Naturally, people think they have to fast for days and drink a lot of laxatives. On the contrary, in fact: the bowel prep only starts a day or two before the exam. The patient may be told to go on a special liquid diet, but certainly doesn't have to starve. Also, colonoscopies have evolved due to advances in medical technology. Patients are no longer required to drink gallons of bowel prep liquid.

2. The colonoscopy is embarrassing and painful

Many think that they have to be fully awake for the procedure. Not so; the patient can be fully sedated for the 20 to 30-minute screening. The patient won't feel a thing and will just wake up in the recovery room once it's all over. The general anesthesia will be performed by an anesthesiologist.

The patient can also opt for 'conscious sedation' in which he is awake but given pain medication to make the exam more comfortable. Other choices may be available depending on the doctor and the hospital where the procedure will be undertaken.

3. The colon can be easily perforated

When done properly by a professional medical practitioner, getting a colon screening is very safe indeed. Incidents of colonoscopic perforation are extremely rare: from 0.016% to 0.2%. This percentage can increase up to 5% in patients 75 years and older or in those with existing conditions that lead to complications. If it does occur, surgical repair is simple. More commonly, non-surgical treatment strategies are followed.

4. Colon screenings should be performed repeatedly to be effective

Some people assume that a colonoscopy is like other regular medical exams that they have to get done every year. However, once it's been performed and the results are negative for colon cancer, the next screening only needs to be after ten years. If the surgeon does find polyps present, he will just remove them and make sure they are non-cancerous. Once the results are in, the patient is notified.

5. Colorectal cancer will get detected but not cured

Colon cancer is one of the most preventable and treatable types of cancer. Early detection guarantees 60 to 90% treatment success. In addition, a colonoscopy will not only screen for cancer but also prevent it from developing in the first place. Through the same procedure, the doctor may remove precancerous growths before they become malignant.

Getting Screened for Colon Cancer

A colonoscopy is recommended for both men and women over 50 years of age. Even people who eat healthily and have no family history of the condition should still have their colon checked. Colon screening has saved many lives and cut the colorectal cancer death rate in half. Patients with a family history should be screened more frequently and often earlier than age 50. Consult your physician to find out what's right for you.

All it takes is the guts to get it done—and it might just save your life.


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