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Facts & Myths

The Truth About Colonoscopies

Chances are you already have some idea of what a colonoscopy entails. Some of it may be rooted in truth, but we often hear wild misconceptions about what this important procedure is. This misinformation can cause many people to neglect their colorectal health, which in turn can have life-altering and even fatal consequences. The truth can save your life — check out some of the most common misconceptions about colonoscopies and why you shouldn’t put off this screening.

MYTH: No symptoms = no screening.

You wouldn’t treat a cold if you weren’t coughing or sneezing, right? That’s the logic many people use regarding their colon health. Unfortunately, not every disease makes itself known so obviously. Precancerous polyps can develop without symptoms. Left unchecked, they can become more serious problems — all the while exhibiting little to no symptoms, so by the time the patient does notice something, it may be too late. Checking regularly is the only way to catch polyps early and remove them before they can grow.

MYTH: It’s too painful.

For some people, the thought of a long, flexible camera exploring their colon makes them… well, squeamish. Some anticipate feelings ranging from discomfort to outright pain while others anticipate risks like a perforated colon. But the truth is patients are sedated during the procedure and don’t wake until well after it’s completed. So, as the doctor examines the colon and removes any polyps, the patient doesn’t feel a thing. As for the risk of perforation, the chances of this happening are 1 in 1,000 — that number is far outweighed by the risk of developing colorectal cancer sometime in your life (1 in 20).

MYTH: The prep is unbearable.

Until recently, colonoscopy patients were required to drink a gallon of prep solution in the hours leading up to their procedure. With patients reporting an unpleasant taste and such a large quantity, prepping for a colonoscopy has often been cited as the worst part of the procedure. The good news is medical advancements have made the prep much more pleasant, in some cases requiring patients to drink 75% less fluid than before. At CIEC, our SUTAB®/Clear Liquid bowel prep offers a more tolerable experience ahead of a colonoscopy with 12 easy-to-swallow tablets — each with a sip of water, followed by drinking a quantity of water as outlined in the detailed bowel prep, starting at 6 p.m. the night before. This is then repeated at 6 a.m. the morning of your colonoscopy. The entire SUTAB® Clear Liquid bowel prep is detailed in a one-page document.

MYTH: I’m not in the right demographic.

One of the deadliest assumptions one can make is believing they’re immune from colorectal cancer based on some preconceived idea of who gets this terrible disease. Anyone who has a colon is at risk of colorectal cancer. Black or white, male or female… Colorectal cancer does not discriminate. Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common form of cancer in the United States, according to the CDC, and is the fourth leading cause of American cancer-related deaths. Regardless of your race, ethnicity, or sex, schedule a regular colonoscopy every five years beginning at age 45.

MYTH: I can just screen at home.

At-home fecal tests — including fecal occult blood tests (FOBT) and fecal immunochemical tests (FIT), and fecal DNA tests — have risen in popularity in recent years as an alternative to colonoscopies. However, these tests aren’t as sensitive and may fail to detect polyps or cancers. Additionally, if a polyp is detected, patients would need to schedule a removal separately, whereas during a colonoscopy, polyps are removed immediately on detection, usually with no extra procedure or scheduling needed.

If you have any questions or concerns about your colonoscopy, our providers are here for you. Contact us today or call (309) 495-1144 for more information.