The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in America is colon cancer. According to stats collected by the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program of the National Cancer Institute over 50,000 people are estimated to die in 2017 from colon cancer. If you have any symptoms related to the disease, you should be screened by your doctor right away.
There are many different kinds of screening options to check for colon cancer. While a colonoscopy is the most thorough examination to take, the U.S. Preventive Task Force recommends that people who are not at high risk for the disease not begin regular screening until after the age of 50. According to a study done by researcher Kristin Sheffield, an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Texas, “more than 30 percent of colonoscopies” performed in Texas via Medicare claims were “potentially inappropriate to screening guidelines.”
Other screening options for colon cancer include a fecal occult blood test and flexible sigmoidoscopy. The University of Texas study suggests that performing a colonoscopy on patients where it would be inappropriate based on the screening guidelines may expose people to the risks associated with a colonoscopy without evidence that it will benefit them.
Side-effects associated with a colonoscopy: According to the Canadian Cancer Society, potential risks of a colonoscopy include: small amounts of blood in stool for 1-2 days (if a biopsy was done and/or a polyp was removed); nausea, vomiting, bloating or irritation of the rectum due to substances used to cleanse the colon and the air used to inflate it.
If your doctor does not recommend a colonoscopy right away, they may offer a sigmoidoscopy. This procedure is similar to a colonoscopy in that they both use a thin, flexible tube with a camera at the end to examine the colon. But the sigmoidoscopy examines only the lower third of the colon. A colonoscopy examines the entire colon.
A fecal occult blood test will be recommended by doctors to check for blood in a patient’s stool. If blood is present, the doctor will most likely recommend a sigmoidoscopy or a colonoscopy.
Uncommon but serious colonoscopy complications: According to the Canadian Cancer Society, uncommon, but serious complications from a colonoscopy may include: bowel perforation, heavy bleeding, or an allergic reaction to the medication used for sedation.
Are inappropriate colonoscopies harmful? According to the study performed by the University of Texas mentioned earlier in this story, no, inappropriate colonoscopies are not harmful to patients, they simply offer no benefit and are a bad waste of valuable hospital resources and time.
What should you say to your doctor if you are getting a colonoscopy? According to the Canadian Cancer Society, the best thing to do is to ask as many questions about how you should prepare. If you’re getting a colonoscopy, your doctor will advise you on what you need to do to prepare for it. The Canadian Cancer Society says that they most likely recommend you skip dinner and breakfast before the procedure. They may also say to try to consume between 2 to 4 litres of liquid that contains laxatives and electrolytes.
The Canadian Cancer Society states that most colonoscopies only take about 30-45 minutes to perform, but they can sometimes take a little bit longer. After the test, the patient is monitored for 1-2 hours.
Despite studies showing that colonoscopies might not always be necessary, it’s still the most reliable way for doctors to check for colon cancer.