Five Myths About Colonoscopies

Doctor and PatientMadison, Wisconsin - Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S.


What's keeping you from scheduling your colonoscopy?


Read these five common myths about colonoscopy, and call your primary care provider to schedule an appointment today.


Myth #1: The "Prep" Will Be Horrible


Yes, you have to empty your colon, but no, it shouldn't be a horrible experience.


The most common patient complaint isn't about time in the bathroom or the actual colonoscopy; it's about how much they had to drink.


If you have difficulty drinking a large volume of liquid, ask about using one of the newer low-volume options. They are equally effective and easier on people who can't drink a lot of liquid at one time. Follow all instructions, including eating a liquid diet (broth, jello, juice) the day before your colonoscopy.


Remember: the cleaner your colon, the better the physician can detect polyps, which is, after all, why you're there.


Myth #2: It Will Hurt


Actually, it shouldn't. Prior to the procedure, patients are given a combination of a narcotic and sedative called "conscious sedation." About 95 percent of patients sleep through the entire procedure and wake up with no memory of the experience. About five percent of people experience cramping, and state that it felt similar to the urge to have a bowel movement.


If you are worried about discomfort, or have any fear related to the procedure, please tell your nurse or physician. They can help alleviate your fear and discuss options with you. Additionally, if you are uncomfortable being sedated, or have side effects related to sedation, your physician can perform the procedure without sedation. However, it is less stressful and more comfortable for the vast majority of patients to utilize conscious sedation for a colonoscopy.


If fear is keeping you from scheduling your colonoscopy, consider a virtual colonoscopy. The prep procedure is the same, but a virtual colonoscopy is done in an external CT scanner instead of with an internal scope, and is done without sedation.


Myth #3: I'm Too Embarrassed


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


Some people are more comfortable choosing a male (or female) physician to perform their colonoscopy. It is also helpful to remember that our physicians perform thousands of colonoscopies a year, and consider the colon the same way they consider any other organ. These experts chose this field due to its good mix of medicine and their ability to perform technically challenging procedures. It is also one of the fields in medicine where physicians have the ability to immediately impact a person's life by eliminating or vastly reducing the possibility of cancer. This is important work, and our team wants to make you comfortable.


Myth #4: There Could be Complications


There is a very low risk of complications during a colonoscopy. Fewer than one in one thousand (less than .1 percent) of UW Health patients experience any type of complication. In fact, your chance of getting colon cancer is much higher. One in 20 people will get colon cancer in their lifetime, and one-third of people diagnosed with colon cancer will die from the disease. Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women.


It is important to schedule your colonoscopy with a physician who is certified to perform the procedure. The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE), a leading gastrointestinal medical society, has recognized the UW Hospital and Clinics Ambulatory Procedure Center and the Madison Surgery Center as part of its program specifically dedicated to promoting quality in endoscopy. The ASGE Endoscopy Unit Recognition Program honors endoscopy units that follow the ASGE guidelines on privileging, quality assurance, endoscope reprocessing and CDC infection control guidelines; and have completed specialized training on principles in quality and safety in endoscopy. Additionally, every one of our physician's adenomatous polyp detection rate (the rate at which suspicious polyps are found and removed) exceeds the national standard.


Myth #5: You Don't Need a Colonoscopy Until You Have Symptoms


Please don't wait to schedule your colonoscopy. The vast majority of 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 cancer. Unless you have previous symptoms, schedule your first colonoscopy at age 50 and then follow your doctor's recommendation for repeat procedures.


The risks of not having a colonoscopy far outweigh these concerns. Review the screening guidelines and contact your primary care provider and request a referral for a colonoscopy.

Date Published: 03/06/2012

News tag(s):  digestive healthcancer

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