“You put what where?” That’s often the first thought associated with a colonoscopy and enough to deter you from ever scheduling one. However, a colonoscopy is not nearly as scary or unpleasant as people lead you to believe. So before you write it off as an unnecessary exam, here are the 4 things you need to know about colonoscopies.
1. It could be lifesaving.
Don’t let the fear of a colonoscopy prevent you from scheduling one. Colorectal cancer is currently the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, but if detected early, colorectal cancer is 90% curable. During a colonoscopy, your gastroenterologist will insert a small, flexible tube through your rectum and into your colon searching for polyps. (It sounds scarier than it is! We promise.) You will most likely be under anesthesia for this procedure and therefore, asleep. So think about it as a lifesaving nap. While you’re in dreamland, the camera will expose any polyps — growths in the tissue lining the colon that may be cancerous. If polyps are detected during your colonoscopy, they will be removed and biopsied to determine whether or not they are cancerous. In many cases, polyps are removed before they become cancer, preventing you from a future diagnosis.
2. You might need to schedule one now.
The blanket recommendation for men and women to schedule a colonoscopy is at 50 years old. If you are 50 years or older, don’t hesitate to make an appointment. But not everyone in their 30s and 40s is off the hook. In some cases, you may need a colonoscopy much sooner. If you have a family history of colon or rectal cancer or even a family history of polyps, you’ll need to talk to your doctor about scheduling a colonoscopy. Or, if you are showing signs of colorectal cancer, there’s no question a colonoscopy is in your future. Be aware of abdominal pain, a change in your bowel movements like diarrhea or constipation that lasts for several consecutive days, a bloody stool, or unintended weight loss. If you notice any combination of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately.
3. The prep has a bad rep.
The preparation for a colonoscopy is the part most people despise. But it’s not as bad as you think! Once your colonoscopy has been scheduled, your doctor will give you instructions on how to best prepare for the procedure. In most cases, this includes a diet of clear liquids and a couple of days using prescribed laxatives or enemas to clean out your colon. On the day of your colonoscopy, you will be given a special drink to consume that will aid your gastroenterologist in the procedure. If you’re hesitant about the prep, just make sure you follow all instructions completely so that you only have to go through it once. If you don’t follow the instructions, your procedure may be incomplete and you’ll have to reschedule your colonoscopy. If you’ve heard a horror story about the prep, remember that stories are best when they are embellished. So your friend is most likely telling you a story, not giving you the actual facts. Don’t let them deter you from scheduling this important exam.
4. How to choose the best person
When choosing a gastroenterologist for your colonoscopy, you want to make sure he or she has an Adenoma Detection Rate (ADR) of at least 20 percent. This percentage represents the number of non-cancerous polyps (adenomas) your doctor has detected in his or her colonoscopy patients. This is extremely important because non-cancerous polyps that are left in the colon can become cancerous over time. If you need a trusted gastroenterologist my ADR is 45 percent. I also offer an Open Access Colonoscopy that will save you both time and money. This option is for healthy patients who show no signs of colorectal cancer or other gastro issues. It allows you to strictly schedule a colonoscopy without the routine office visit prior to the procedure.