Colonoscopies: Debunking the myths

Procedure can help prevent colon cancer (and you might not even remember it)

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Colorectal cancer screenings can save lives. Despite that, 1 in 3 people aren’t up to date with their screenings.

Schedule a screening: Colorectal cancer screenings at Sanford Health

People choose to put off getting screened due to a number of reasons, and the myths surrounding colonoscopies certainly don’t help.

Having the facts can help you make the best decision for your health. Separate the myths from the facts with information from Sanford Health experts.

Myth: Colonoscopies are painful and scary

Fact: Most patients don’t remember or feel their colonoscopies. Typically, patients are given a sedative prior the procedure, which helps prevent pain or discomfort.

After the procedure, some patients may experience mild stomach or rectum irritation. The discomfort should disappear within a few days.

Severe pain or complications are rare. If you experience symptoms of heavy bleeding, fever or dizziness, contact your provider for guidance.

While the idea of colonoscopies may seem unpleasant or even scary, it’s important to remember that your Sanford Health team has your backside. They’ll be there to answer your concerns and make you feel comfortable before, during and after the screening.

Myth: Colonoscopies are embarrassing

Fact: A colonoscopy is nothing to be ashamed of. While it’s natural to feel concern, those conducting the procedure are medical professionals. They perform tests like these often, and there’s very little they haven’t seen.

Patients are provided with a hospital gown and a sheet for additional privacy. With the sedation, most patients don’t remember the procedure.

Myth: Colonoscopies are only for people with symptoms

Fact: Colorectal cancer can affect anyone, even those with no family history of the disease. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S.

A colonoscopy can help prevent colorectal cancer, which separates it from other screening options. During the procedure, colorectal specialists can remove abnormal polyps before they can develop into cancer.

Colonoscopies can also help catch health issues when they are most treatable. Many consider colonoscopies to be the “gold standard” for preventing colorectal cancer. In fact, the five-year relative survival rate for colorectal cancer is about 90% when caught early through a colonoscopy or other screening.

Myth: Colorectal cancer screenings are expensive

Fact: Most colorectal cancer screenings are covered under insurance plans. On average, patients should receive colorectal cancer screenings beginning at age 45 and ending at 75.

Colonoscopies are recommended every 10 years. Low-risk patients may opt to do a stool test, another option for colorectal cancer screenings. These are recommended every one to three years, depending on the screening type.

If you’re at a higher risk, your provider might recommend beginning these screenings earlier. Risk factors for colorectal cancer may include:

  1. Age: Almost 94% of new colorectal cancer cases occur in those 45 years and above.
  2. Ethnicity: Colorectal cancer is more likely to occur in Black, American Indian and/or Alaskan Native adults.
  3. Family history of colorectal cancer: Family history can impact the risk for colorectal cancer, even without any known inherited syndrome like Lynch syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis.
  4. Sex: Men are at a higher risk of colorectal cancer.
  5. Other: Obesity, diabetes, smoking and heavy alcohol use can increase an individual’s risk for colorectal cancer.

Getting a colorectal cancer screening is the best way to identify cancer risks and help prevent colorectal cancer. It takes one day and one screening to safeguard your health.

Information in this article was reviewed by Nicholas Battista, M.D., a specialist in gastroenterology at Sanford Health.

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Posted In Cancer, Cancer Screenings, Digestive Health, Family Medicine, Internal Medicine