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MEDICAL MATTERS: Colonoscopy screening also serves as prevention - Odessa American: Health

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MEDICAL MATTERS: Colonoscopy screening also serves as prevention

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Posted: Sunday, July 16, 2017 6:30 am

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

>> Benjamin Franklin

This is true across the medical field, but especially pertinent when it comes to colon cancer screening. It is a lot easier to prevent colon cancer than to treat it once it occurs.

Colonoscopy is a very powerful screening technique because you can not only diagnose polyps that are precursors to colon cancer, but also remove them during the procedure. It is this removal of polyps which can eliminate colon cancer risk. Approximately 25 to 30 percent of 50-year-old patients will have polyps.

The major hesitation people have about colonoscopies is fear of pain during the procedure. Many gastroenterologists are performing this procedure using anesthesia (deep sedation) that allows the patient to not have any awareness during the procedure. Often patients wake up from sedation and are surprised that the procedure is already completed!

Another hesitation I often hear is “Ugh, I have to drink all that stuff.” It’s true that drinking the prep is the hardest part of the procedure, but the laxative preps have improved over the years. A common laxative used in the past was about four liters of a liquid. While this prep is still used, there are newer preps which are half the volume (or even smaller) and easier to consume. The preps are often split-dosed, which means the patient drinks half the prep the night before the procedure and the other half early morning of the procedure. This fact can be reassuring to patients worried about having to drink a lot of liquid in one session.

The procedure is also very safe. The most common complication is bleeding, which occurs in up to 0.6 percent of procedures. Most of the time the bleeding will stop on its own. Perforation, which is the creation of a hole or tear in the colon accidentally, is a serious complication but occurs very rarely in about 0.1 percent of procedures.

Medical testing can be expensive and this can also deter people from having colonoscopies. However, many insurance carriers cover screening colonoscopies because these are considered preventive tests. Colonoscopies may be a part of your insurance plan, so take advantage of this!

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