Colon Cancer Awareness Month – Get Your Colonoscopy!
Months of recovery from surgery. Months of chemo. Just avoided an ileostomy (this is where you have a permanent device that you wear on your body because your colon doesn’t work anymore, to collect you know what). Incredible wear and tear on my family, and my business. I could write 5000 words on any one of the sentences, but I’ll spare you that. Probably all of it (or most of it anyway) could have been avoided if I had just gotten the colonoscopy… Schedule yours as soon as you can!
Here are some basic facts:
- A colonoscopy is painless.
Yes, the tube goes exactly where you think it does. But you won’t feel a thing.
Colonoscopies employ monitored anesthesia. You’ll be given medicine through an IV that will keep you comfortable, pain-free and unaware of the procedure.
A nurse anesthetist will administer the medicine and watch you intently—monitoring your heart, breathing and blood pressure—for the duration of the procedure, so the doctors can focus on the colonoscopy.
The only soreness you might feel after would be associated with your IV site, but that typically doesn’t hurt either.
You might pass gas for a couple of hours after the procedure. This is normal and not painful.
- A colonoscopy is quick.
It’s recommended you take the whole day off work to recover from sedation, but going and getting a colonoscopy only takes about half a morning. (The actual procedure can take as little as 15 minutes.)
If you are healthy and without bowel symptoms, you don’t have to have a consultation and then go through the process of scheduling a separate appointment. You can meet your doctor and have the procedure in the same short session.
- Forget what you’ve heard. Colonoscopy prep is NOT. THAT. BAD.
People like to talk about the unpleasantness of colonoscopy preparation. But over the past 15 years, colonoscopy preparation has been improved and refined. The truth is, it’s not that bad anymore.
Doctors use split prep, which means you drink a prescribed laxative that will cause diarrhea for a couple of hours. You should be done by bedtime and able to get some rest.
- You’re not necessarily too young for a colonoscopy.
Guidelines call for colorectal cancer screening starting at age 50 if you’re at average risk. If you’re at increased risk, based on family history of colon cancer or other factors, you’ll want to start earlier, typically at age 40. No matter your age, if you have blood in your stool, weakness and fatigue, or a major change in your bowel habits, talk to your doctor. Recent research from the American Cancer Society found a sharp rise in colorectal cancer rates among adults in their 20s and 30s; in fact, a person born in 1990 has double the risk of colon cancer and four times the risk of rectal cancer compared with people born in 1950.
- There are alternatives, but colonoscopies remain the most effective, long-term option for colon cancer screening.
There are screening methods besides a colonoscopy, but none comes with as many advantages. For one, a colonoscopy usually needs to be repeated only every 10 years if results are normal.
At-home colon cancer detection tests are highly sensitive for cancer only when you already have the disease. Colonoscopies detect precancerous lesions and prevent them from growing into anything detectable by a home stool test. And, if you one of those tests (which can be pricey and require repeat testing after the first one), and it detects cancer, you’ll need a colonoscopy anyway.
- Colonoscopies can find more conditions than just cancer, and you might feel better as a result.
Colonoscopies also detect the inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. Both are inflammatory diseases of the intestines. Identifying them early helps reduce the long-term damage they can do, including scarring and bleeding in the colon, malnourishment, pain and intestinal blockages that require surgery. These diseases also might increase risk of colorectal cancer. If left unaddressed, such diseases can lead to painful complications.
- Having a colonoscopy is not as embarrassing as you think.
The procedure is typically done at an endoscopy center, and all the patients are there for gastrointestinal care. In other words, everyone is in the same boat.
Yes, everyone is there to have something done that may feel embarrassing. But you can relax—this is regular, everyday work for the clinical staff that will be taking care of you. So don’t worry.
Also, the anesthesia will help you relax, it will be over before you know it?
- A colonoscopy could save your life.
Last but not least, right? Colonoscopies save lives. Lots of them.