Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths among Americans. Fortunately, it is also one of the most preventable with early detection. This is why colonoscopies at the age of 50 (or sooner for high-risk patients) have become the standard recommended screening test. Not only can these procedures detect existing colorectal cancer, they also allow gastroenterologists to find and remove pre-cancerous polyps before they have an opportunity to progress. However, there are still many who put off the test, oftentimes due to fears that are unwarranted such as the following.
A Colonoscopy is going to be Embarrassing
There are many patients who are embarrassed to talk about a colonoscopy, much less have one. They may feel that they will be exposed with doctors and nurses seeing them in a vulnerable position, but these concerns are unfounded. The medical professionals who perform colonoscopies do this same procedure countless times over the course of their career. Not only is it something they are used to seeing frequently, they are focused only at the job at hand by viewing the monitor where the images are displayed. Rest assured that those in the room with you will be far more concerned with the interval view than the external one.
A Colonoscopy is going to Hurt
The assumption that a colonoscopy may be painful may seem logical, but it could not be further from the truth. Patients are sedated before their procedure and will not feel a thing. Furthermore, the scope itself is a very thin and flexible tube that should cause no discomfort. In the majority of cases, the most discomfort patients feel after their procedure, if any, is from trapped gas that soon passes.
I’m Scared to get my Colonoscopy Results
Perhaps it is the fear of the unknown that keeps someone from receiving their colonoscopy. They may fear that their physician will find evidence of cancer. Fortunately, most colonoscopies give good results, and when performed in a timely manner, they can actually prevent the vast majority of colorectal cancers from ever developing. In reality, putting off a colonoscopy should be a far greater fear than the results of one done at a recommended age.
I Don’t have Time for a Colonoscopy
A colonoscopy does require a certain investment of time. Patients will need to take the day off of work, find someone to drive them, and prepare the day before by drinking a colon-cleansing liquid. The truth, however, is that patients don’t have the time to NOT get a colonoscopy. Putting this test off to avoid an unpleasant drink or time away from work is simply nonsensical, as the end result could be far more dangerous and time-consuming.
If you are at average risk for colorectal cancer and are 50 years old or are 45 and at high-risk, don’t let anxiety about a colonoscopy prevent you from receiving this critical screening. By getting the procedure, you will find that your fears beforehand were unfounded and that the anticipation was the worst part by far. Furthermore, you will be safeguarding your health for years to come, as a colonoscopy with a negative result does not need to be repeated for 10 years.