Regular Colonoscopies can Save your Life
Many patients who develop colon cancer have no obvious risk factors or visible symptoms until the disease has progressed. If you have a colon, you are at risk for colon cancer and should begin preventative screenings by age 45.
The American Cancer Society estimated that 106,180 new cases of colon cancer and 44,850 new cases of rectal cancer would be diagnosed in the United States in 2022, and over 52,000 of these individuals would die from the disease. For men, out of all the cancers, colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of death, and for women, it is the third-leading cause of cancer-related death. However, there is no difference in when a female should get a colonoscopy vs a male.
There is good news and not-so-good news. Year over year, the death rate for older adults has declined due to early detection, the removal of precancerous polyps, and early intervention. The flip side is that the death rate for younger patients has increased by about 1% each year. In response, the medical guidelines have changed, and the recommended age to begin screening has been reduced to 45 years of age.
What is a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a procedure that is performed while the patient is under sedation to detect early signs of or diagnose colon or rectal cancers. The procedure allows a doctor to examine a patient’s rectum and colon using a colonoscopy (a thin, flexible tool with an attached camera) to identify areas of irritation, ulcers, swelling, polyps, and cancer. If polyps are found, the doctor can remove them during the procedure.
Who should have a Colonoscopy?
The new screening age recommendation for colon cancer has been reduced to age 45 to address the increase in the number of colorectal deaths in patients under 50 that have occurred over the past several years. The incidence of colorectal cancer in patients under the age of 50 is approximately 1 in 7.
Unfortunately, by the time most people develop symptoms of colon cancer, the disease is already in advanced stages. Anyone aged 45 and up should be screened for colon cancer for the first time, and then every ten years after that. If you have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer, polyps, Lynch syndrome, a personal history of IBD, etc., talk to your doctor about getting screened earlier or more frequently.
How is the Procedure performed?
While you are sedated, a colonoscope will be inserted into your rectum. The colonoscope is only 1/2″ in diameter and is equipped with a light and a tiny camera that helps guide the gastroenterologist as they inspect the walls of the colon.
If any polyps are discovered, the doctor will most likely remove them during the procedure. When the whole length of the intestine has been examined for problem areas, the colonoscope will be removed and you will be taken to a special area to recover.
The entire procedure takes between 20 and 45 minutes. Women have slightly longer intestines, so the female colonoscopy procedure takes a little longer to perform than one for a male.
What can I Expect after the Procedure?
Make sure to familiarize yourself with your discharge instructions so you will know exactly what to expect, how to recognize the signs of complications, and who to contact if you experience any.
Is special Preparation required before a Colonoscopy?
STEP 1: Adjust Your Diet
About a week before the procedure, you will need to avoid:
- Corn Kernels.
- Raw Veggies.
- Nuts and Seeds.
- Whole Grain Products (i.e., brown rice, oatmeal, and whole wheat bread).
If you take routine medications, your doctor will give you specific instructions on when to stop taking them, if necessary. Some medications should be avoided for at least 7 days before the procedure. Some common medications to avoid include:
- Blood-Thinning Medication.
- Blood Glucose-Regulating Medication.
- NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs like ibuprofen, Advil, etc.).
24 hours before the procedure, you will need to avoid:
- All solid foods.
- You are allowed only clear liquids and no beverages that contain red, blue, or purple dyes.
3 to 4 hours before the procedure do not eat or drink anything.
STEP 2: Stool Softener
You may be given a stool softener that you will take according to the doctor’s directions.
STEP 3: Colon Cleanse
This is where the fun begins, and you take your laxative to begin the colon cleanse. This is the part that no one likes, but it is necessary so the lining of the colon is clear and any precursors to cancer can be identified and dealt with. If you prepare for your exam properly, the exam will be clear and effective. No one wants to have to repeat this preparation a second time.
Some doctors prefer that patients take the entire laxative at one time, and some break it up into two sessions, which is called a Split-Dose Regimen. They drink 1/2 of the laxative the night before and do part of the cleanse and then finish the laxative in the early morning and complete the cleanse. Many doctors feel that the split-dose regimen is easier on the patient and improves the preparation of the colon for the exam.
Staying close to the bathroom for the next few hours would be recommended. You will have diarrhea, and it can come on suddenly.
Continue to follow the directions you were given for the cleanse (normally, it is to drink some of the laxatives every 15 minutes). This may mean that at times you have to drink it while you are on the toilet.
t is normal to experience abdominal discomfort until your colon is totally flushed out. This can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours, or for some patients, it takes longer.
Sometimes patients experience anal skin irritation or hemorrhoid inflammation that can be treated with over-the-counter remedies made for this purpose or a prescription hemorrhoid cream if you have one on hand. Do not use suppositories.
In rare cases, patients may experience nausea or vomiting during the preparation time. If this happens, take a 30-90 minute break, rinse your mouth or brush your teeth, and then continue drinking the prep solution.
Are there any Risks Associated with a Colonoscopy?
The procedure is very common and has been done for years. The benefits of finding an issue while it is still treatable far outweigh the risks of the procedure.
Some rare but potential complications of having a colonoscopy include an adverse reaction to the sedative, bleeding, tearing of the intestinal wall, etc. Your doctor will go over all the risks and potential complications, and you will sign a waiver before the procedure is started. Make sure to ask questions if there is anything you do not understand.
How much does the Procedure cost?
The cost of a colonoscopy will vary depending on many factors, including your geographical location, the location of the procedure (hospital outpatient center or private surgery center), the expertise of the doctor, etc. The average cost for the procedure ranges between $1,000 and $1,500. If you would like to know the exact pricing for your procedure, set up a consultation.
A colonoscopy can detect precancerous lesions and cancer. Prepping for the exam may be unpleasant, but it is a small inconvenience compared to its life-saving potential. In the best-case scenario, you will be given the all-clear however, if something is discovered, this procedure may have just saved your life.
IBI Healthcare Institute performs colonoscopies in their Atlanta, Georgia, and Tampa, Florida locations. Contact us today to set up your colonoscopy.