I’m too busy…I can’t take time off work…I can’t go a full day without eating…The prep is terrible…I would be so embarrassed…
If these thoughts or others have you delaying a colonoscopy, we suggest a different thought: One day can save your life.
According to estimates from the American Cancer Society, colon cancer is the 4th most common cancer in the US, after breast, lung, and prostate cancers. But, more patients die of colon cancer than either breast or prostate cancer. That is a disappointing statistic, because colon cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. Unlike many other cancers, there is an easy way to screen for colon cancer. Colonoscopy is readily available and effective. Large, national studies have shown that colonoscopy reduces an individual’s risk of dying from colon cancer by nearly 70%.
How does a colonoscopy work?
You, as the patient, devote that one day of your life to eating only clear liquids and drinking a laxative to clear out your system. The prep continues to be improved by the manufacturers – the taste has been changed and the volume consumed has been reduced. So, those stories from well- meaning friends and relatives about the prep may not be completely true. Then, you visit your physician for the short procedure, which typically lasts about 30 minutes. The physician inserts a tube that has an attached camera into your rectum, then guides it through your large intestine. He or she views your intestine on a large screen, looking for abnormalities. You are sedated during the procedure to keep you comfortable. You do not feel the tube traveling through your intestine.
Colonoscopy is valuable because colon cancer is a slow growing tumor. Colon cancer is typically (but not always) caused by abnormal growths called polyps, or adenomas, that develop very gradually over time to become cancerous. During the colonoscopy, the physician will look for and remove polyps. By removing polyps early, the risk of developing cancer is reduced. Without colonoscopy, the polyps continue to grow, abnormal cells continue to change, and cancer may develop.
After the procedure, you will typically need 30 minutes or so to recover from the sedation. You will go home shortly after the procedure feeling well, although you may be a little tired. You can return to eating normal foods immediately. You may want to start with a light meal, and then gradually add other foods as the day progresses.
Individuals who develop colon cancer are faced with the possibilities of surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy, depending on how far the cancer has progressed when it is diagnosed. Isn’t that one day for a colonoscopy worth the attempt to prevent what could be many days spent battling colon cancer?