Top five myths about colonoscopies

Man in bathroom with a roll of toilet paper

When it comes to preventative medical screenings, colonoscopies are among the ones where myths abound. So we want to dispel the top ones so people get the critical screening, if recommended by their provider. Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women, so it’s important to pay attention to colon health.

1. The prep will be awful.

It is true that you need to empty your colon before a colonoscopy. But it should not be an awful experience. The most common complaint among patients after a colonoscopy is not how often they had to go to the bathroom or the actual colonoscopy itself. But how much they had to drink. Follow all instructions, including eating the liquid diet the day before. The cleaner your colon is, the better your physician can detect polyps and prevent colon cancer.

2. The procedure will be painful.

Most patients undergoing colonoscopy do not complain of any pain. Prior to the procedure, patients are given a combination of narcotic and sedative called “conscious sedation.” About 95 % of patients sleep through the procedure and wake up with no memory of the experience.

If you are worried about discomfort, please let your nurse or physician know. They can help alleviate your fear and discuss sedation options with you.

3. Colonoscopies are dangerous, and my colon will get perforated.

There is a very low risk of complications during a colonoscopy. Bleeding and discomfort after the procedure can happen, but most are self-limiting and mild. Yes, perforation of your colon is a possible complication. However, fewer than 1 in 1,000 patients experience this type of injury. Your chance of getting colon cancer is much higher: one in 20 people in the U.S. will get colon cancer in their lifetime. One of three people diagnosed with colon cancer will die from the disease.

4. I should not need colonoscopy until I have symptoms.

Colon cancers do not usually cause symptoms until they become large, and many of these cancers will then be metastatic, and therefore not be curable. So do not wait to schedule your colonoscopy. Most colon cancers are found in patients who did not have any pain or other symptoms. Following the national recommendations for scheduling a colonoscopy helps physicians find polyps early, before they develop into cancers.

5. It is embarrassing.

As physicians, we realize that a colonoscopy is one of the most invasive tests most people will ever experience. We will do everything possible to ensure the most private, respectful, and modest experience for every patient.

If you’re 50 or older, it’s time for a colonoscopy. Call Welia Health at 320.679.1313 to schedule your appointment.

We perform hundreds of colonoscopies a year, and consider the colon the same way as any other organs. We chose this field because of its good mix of medicine and our ability to perform technically challenging procedures. It is one of the few procedures in medicine where we can impact a person’s life by eliminating or vastly reducing the possibility of cancers. This is important work, and our team wants to ensure that you are comfortable and you know the facts surrounding colonoscopies.