Colonoscopy myths debunked
While getting a colonoscopy may not be at the top of your list of most exciting things to do, you already know how important can be in the prevention and detection of colorectal cancer.
“People avoid getting colonoscopies for various reasons,” says Michele Sobeck, gastroenterology nurse practitioner at Aurora Medical Center – Bay Area in Marinette, Wis. “Some are embarrassed, some are worried about the process, some don’t think they need it. And then others are worried about the results. Modern advancements actually help to put much of this to rest.”
Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death among men and women, excluding skin cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. That’s a good reason to confront myths about colonoscopies head on.
Myth #1: Colonoscopies hurt.
“It is rare for a colonoscopy to be painful,” Sobeck explains. “Most patients are consciously sedated and don’t remember hardly any of it.” One of the most common sensations felt by the few who express discomfort after the procedure explain it as the need to have a bowel movement.
Myth #2: I don’t have any symptoms, so I don’t need a colonoscopy.
In fact, colorectal cancer rarely presents symptoms until the disease has progressed. The good news? Screening via colonoscopies could help prevent colorectal cancer deaths. Talk to your doctor about whether one is right for you. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screenings via colonoscopy for adults “beginning at age 50 years and continuing until age 75.”
Myth #3: The preparation for a colonoscopy is the worst.
If you’ve never had a colonoscopy, here’s the scoop: You need to empty your bowels before the procedure. To do so, you should follow a colonoscopy-prep diet for a full day before the procedure: Drink clear liquids and consume no solid foods and dairy. Also before the procedure, you’ll be given an electrolyte solution to help fully clear your bowels.
“Try to keep in mind why you’re having the procedure done: To ensure you’re living well and will continue to live well without colorectal cancer,” says Sobeck. “Colonoscopy prep is nothing compared to colorectal cancer.”
While colonoscopies are important, Sobeck and the American Cancer Society offer some tips to use outside of your regular colonoscopy timeframe to prevent colorectal cancer:
- Maintain a healthy weight (take a quick, free online assessment to learn more about your healthy weight by clicking here)
- Keep a regular fitness regimen
- Quit smoking
- Reduce your intake of red or processed meat and alcohol
- Increase your consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole-grain fiber
To learn more about your risk for colorectal cancer, take a free online quiz.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.
I’m sorry, but “Myth #3” is no myth. The stuff they make you drink before a colonoscopy is VILE.
I find it helps to drink it with a straw.
It is a minor inconvenience for such a life-saving exam.
Agreed ! You won’t like it going in, and you certainly won’t like it coming out.
Anne is RIGHT! The day before you LIVE on the toilet, and the volume of the Gatorade that you have to drink, with the Dulcolax in it, is difficult to consume.
I agree with Anne. I understand it’s necessary, but it is awful.
Seems to me they should be able to invent a pill to take instead of trying to drink that awful stuff.
Why are these questions answered by someone who is not a Doctor? If you are going to have the public’s questions answered so that they feel better about these procedures, wouldn’t it be better to get an expert? Are the doctors not doing colonoscopies anymore? I’m not coming down on nurses but if doctors are not doing the procedures anymore, then that is my biggest concern because of how invasive the procedure is.
A Cologard at-home test is an alternative to colonoscopies for people who are not at high risk. My doctor prescribes one every year.
I read that the statistics on colonoscopies had to be updated due to the fact more people get sick than previously thought. Its not one in a million. The other thing is they dont know enough about gut flora to be sure its safe to flush out the little guys. They need better information for them and the patients…in other words revamp their whole system and approach. Better before and after health advice. Like what to eat afterwards, supplements and healthy diet to speed recovery. Signs and symptoms to look for after the procedure. They really need to educate themselves and the patients way better before they start another colonoscopy.
Nurses do NOT perform the colonoscopy. Nurses do, however, do much of the preparation education/assistance and post-procedure education. There are nurses in the exam room who assist in the procedure from beginning to end. And most outpatient endo centers are using Nurse Anesthetists to administer the sedation. So even though nurses don’t perform the exam or make diagnosis, they are “experts” when it comes to the exam and everything involved with it.
Anne is correct, there is no way to sugar coat it, the prep is not pleasant. But the procedure itself is a breeze, you wake up and it’s done!
The new prep kit to empty the bowels is tasteless. It’s expensive. It’s till not fun but… The knock out drugs were fabulous!
Don’t believe in free 10 year screenings. When you’re asked “if any polyps are found would you like them removed, they may become cancerous later ?” Doesn’t matter if your blessed without cancer when the biopsy report comes back. You owe your maximum deductible and any extras. That is no longer a screening. Retroactively it is medically necessary. Sure you did the right thing. Saved your future self. Just put that full deductible in your budget before you guzzle the bucket of chalk.
I had my first colonoscopy last fall when I turned 50. The prep was miralax with blue Gatorade. It tasted like blue Gatorade. I don’t know what everyone else was complaining about. Granted, I don’t typically drink Gatorade, but it wasn’t disgusting. There were no after-effects once I was done. And the actual procedure was a breeze. There is no excuse to not have one done. Colorectal cancer is devastating and deadly. Colostomies are no joke.
Cologuard. My Dr recommend s if your last procedure was clean
My first colonoscopy was under “twilight sleep,” and I think the doc didn’t use enough juice. Every turn that the scope took hurt, and I heard every word, including “Wow! Is this guy clean!!”
I’m with Deb, but used the lemon-lime Gatorade. Really was not a big deal for me, thankfully. Followed the instructions exactly, so maybe that helped. I took a day off work for the prep day because I heard such horror stories, but I really could have worked.