HEALTH FIRST: Afraid to Get a Colonoscopy? Experts Debunk Sterotypical Myths

By  //  March 31, 2021

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A colonoscopy could potentially save your life

Sure, people like to make jokes about colonoscopies. No one really likes to talk about getting a health screening for one of the most personal of places. But there’s nothing funny about colorectal cancer. (Health First image)

(HEALTH FIRST) – Sure, people like to make jokes about colonoscopies. No one really likes to talk about getting a health screening for one of the most personal of places. But there’s nothing funny about colorectal cancer.

Simply put, a colonoscopy could potentially save your life.

“Colorectal cancers are not an uncommon form of cancer and can be devastating, but at Health First, we know the survival rate from these cancers that are caught early is very high – over 90%,” says Dr. Jeremy Weinberger, a Health First Medical Group physician.

“That’s why colonoscopies are so encouraged and promoted here.”

Colorectal cancer is the second biggest killer of both men and women, just behind lung cancer.

While the majority of people diagnosed with colorectal cancer are over the age of 50, it can happen to younger people, too.

Last year, Hollywood leading man Chadwick Boseman (“The Black Panther”) died of colon cancer at age 43.

Still, a number of myths – and awkwardness – persist. So, we’re breaking down six falsehoods about colonoscopies for you (or anyone who might be due for one) to think about.

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Myth #1 “I am going to hate this.”

We’re not going to pretend that colonoscopies are on par with spa treatments, but they’ve come a long way.

At Health First, these procedures are accompanied by mild anesthesia delivered by IV drip. You might experience gassiness after and very slight soreness, but it won’t last long. Afterward, most patients say it’s the best sleep they’ve ever had.

Myth #2 “I mean, the prep is awful.”

No solid food is allowed 24 hours before the procedure, but liquids like broth and even Jell-O and popsicles are OK. Years ago, colonoscopy prep may have involved drinking as much as a gallon of diluted laxative that tasted pretty awful. Today, it’s more like a cup of not-great soda.

The preparation (basically, cleaning out your system) is the not-so-fun part. It’s not as convenient as a fasting blood draw. Still, the procedure might be preferable to a few dental procedures we could name.

Myth #3 “I’m healthy. I think this is one screening I can skip.”

It is a screening many Americans skip and, unfortunately, too many regret it. For one, colon cancers are a leading killer among cancers of middle-aged men and women. For another, colonoscopies are an extremely effective preventive tool for catching cancer early and beating it.

A colonoscopy is usually conducted only once every 10 years if results are normal.

Myth #4 “I know there are easier alternatives.”

Yes, a flexible sigmoidoscopy is a little easier, but it must be done every five years; a double-contrast barium enema that relies on X-ray to find abnormal growths is also every five years. For each, if anything is found, a colonoscopy is ordered up next.

The same is true of at-home fecal immunochemical tests (FITs) or fecal DNA tests (such as Cologuard), which do not detect precancerous lesions. A colonoscopy can not only screen for or diagnose cancer, it can also be interventional by removing precancerous polyps.

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Myth #5 “To tell the truth, I’m just embarrassed.”

OK, that’s an understandable concern, and one we hear a lot. At Health First, a colonoscopy is done at one of our endoscopy centers.

You’re not alone in it. All of our patients are there for gastrointestinal care, and our staff handles your screening with the utmost privacy and care. We’re all in this together.

Myth #6 “I don’t have time for a colonoscopy.”

The procedure isn’t long, and the anesthesia will help you relax. You won’t guess how quickly it’s over, literally.

And at Health First, if you’re healthy and without symptoms, you can schedule a screening without an initial consultation, so your colonoscopy process can begin with a simple phone call.

Talk to your doctor about getting a colonoscopy if you are older than 50, older than 40 but have a family history of colon polyps or cancer, or if you’ve noticed a worrisome change in your bowel movements or have any bleeding or pain.

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