Posted By Author on February 6, 2024
The mere mention of a colonoscopy is usually accompanied by a grimace and reluctance. Despite it being a common procedure, colonoscopies are clouded in misinformation and myths, making it an easy “no” for most. However, the procedure may not be as bad as you have been led to believe – and it could even save your life. Allow us to dispel some colonoscopy myths. Read on!
Colonoscopies represent the gold standard for preventing colorectal cancer, which happens to be one of the top leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. However, the myths surrounding this procedure account for only four out of 10 people being diagnosed with colon cancer in its early stages.
When it comes to colonoscopies, what is fact and what is fiction? Keep reading to learn more about this common gastrointestinal procedure, and then schedule your appointment with Charleston GI today!
Before you begin to discern between colonoscopy fact and fiction, you have to understand the basics of this routine procedure.
What is a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a procedure that is used to examine and assess the health of your colon. A device equipped with a light and small camera called a colonoscope is inserted into the rectum and allows your GI doctor to view the inside of your colon and rectum. During a colonoscopy, your doctor will look for any abnormalities, such as growths. These growths are referred to as polyps.
What are Colon Polyps?
Colon polyps are lumps of tissue that form on the lining of your colon or large intestine. There are two main types of polyps: hyperplastic and adenoma. Hyperplastic polyps are unlikely to become cancerous. Adenomas can be broken down into four subtypes based on growth patterns and are more likely to develop into colon cancer.
Myth #1: I don’t have symptoms, so I don’t need a colonoscopy.
Colon polyps and the early stages of colon cancer can grow without showing any signs or symptoms. If symptoms of colon cancer have begun to show themselves, the cancer may be at an advanced stage. The key to surviving colon cancer is early detection and prevention, which means catching potentially harmful polyps before they grow and progress.
Myth #2: Colonoscopies are a painful procedure.
During a colonoscopy, a colonoscope is inserted into the rectum to view the colon and large intestine. While this may appear that it could be painful, our GI doctors in Charleston provide the means to make you as comfortable as possible.
Sedatives are administered prior to the procedure, which takes 30 to 60 minutes. If polyps are found and require testing, a piece of it will be removed by your GI specialist. The colon has no nerve endings on the inside, which means removing polyps is a pain-free practice. While in recovery, a majority of patients wake up without any memory of the experience at all!
Myth #3: Colonoscopy prep is horrible.
Once upon a time, patients undergoing a colonoscopy were asked to drink a gallon of preparation solution in order to clean out the colon. Drinking that much liquid can prove difficult, but these days colonoscopy preparation has been made a bit easier with a few modifications.
Now, patients can split the dose of colonoscopy prep solution in half, drinking one quart the night before the second quart the morning of the procedure. For those who can’t drink fluids or have other challenges, there are now medications that can be taken to clean the colon. If you find yourself undergoing a colonoscopy, talk to the GI doctor near you about alternative prep solutions.
Myth #4: A polyp means I have colon cancer.
Polyps come in all shapes and sizes, therefore not every polyp is cancerous. Most colon polyps are harmless and are typically removed before they turn into colon cancer. For polyps that are questionable, your GI doctor will take a piece for testing to determine if it will need to be removed.
Myth #5: Colon cancer only affects men.
The fact is that if you have a colon, you are at risk for colon cancer. Colon cancer does not discriminate based on gender, affecting about 140,000 people every year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although women are slightly less at risk, colorectal cancer can strike any age, gender, or ethnicity.
Myth #6: Colonoscopies are too expensive.
Colonoscopies are the gold standard for preventing colorectal cancer, as it examines the entire colon and can be used to diagnose and remove precancerous polyps simultaneously. Given its primary use as a cancer screening test, there is usually little or no cost for a colonoscopy.
Contact your insurance provider before your procedure to discuss colonoscopy coverage.
Myth #7: Colonoscopies are dangerous, my colon could be perforated.
A colon perforation is a tear of the colonic wall caused by the tip of a colonoscope or endoscope. The risk of perforation is less than 1 in 1,000, making colonoscopies an incredibly safe procedure. When performed by our board-certified gastroenterologists, the risk of bleeding during a colonoscopy is less than one percent.
Colonoscopies have been given a bad reputation, from the expense of the procedure to the preparation experience. Its reputation, however, has been consumed by misinformation and lack of knowledge on the common GI procedure. Don’t always believe what you read and hear!
Undergoing a colonoscopy is a relatively quick and simple procedure, with its benefits far outweighing the risks involved. In the hands of our gastroenterology specialists, we aim to debunk the myths and misconceptions surrounding colonoscopies and give you peace of mind for years to come!
Interested in scheduling a colonoscopy near you? We have four convenient Charleston, SC area locations to choose from, in West Ashley, Mount Pleasant, Summerville, and Carnes Crossroads.
There’s no referral needed, so schedule your appointment today, with Charleston GI!