Eight myths about colonoscopy
Eight myths about colonoscopy
We checked eight facts and myths for you about this prevalent test, with the help of Dr. Moshe Nadler, an expert gastroenterologist and senior physician in charge of therapy quality and safety at the Gastroenterology Unit, Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Tel - Hashomer.
8 facts and myths about colonoscopy:
1. A colonoscopy can help detect colon cancer early, but cannot prevent the disease.
The test discovers polyps (benign growths) in the bowel and enables them to be removed before they become malignant.
2. Only people above the age of 50 need to undergo a colonoscopy.
The age for initial testing is determined according to each patient’s personal situation and family history.
If a relative has colon cancer, you need to begin being tested already at the age of 40 or at an age earlier than the relative’s age when cancer was diagnosed, whichever is earlier. Over time, we are seeing an uptrend in the number of young people who contract colon cancer, apparently as a result of changes in our modern lifestyle, consumption of processed foods, etc. Therefore, symptoms that might attest to a problem, such as fecal occult blood, stomach ache, unexplained weight loss, recurring constipation – require medical clarification.
3. No special preparations are needed before undergoing a colonoscopy.
Before undergoing a colonoscopy, a patient’s intestine must first be emptied in order to enable thorough scanning. This preparation includes adhering to a particular diet for several days before the test and taking a laxative to promote intestinal cleansing.
4. Colonoscopy is performed under full anesthesia.
Colonoscopy is performed after the patient has been mildly sedated and does not include anesthesia, which requires the insertion of tubes into the windpipe. This is also why recovery is relatively fast and takes about an hour. Because of possible lingering effects of sedation, the patient should be accompanied back home.
5. Colonoscopy is painful.
The sedation prevents you from feeling pain and most people report that they felt no pain at all either during the test or afterwards.
6. Another type of test exists that is less invasive than a colonoscopy.
Virtual colonoscopy is a special CT test that examines the bowel but, unlike a colonoscopy, it is used only as a diagnostic tool that does not allow any procedures to be performed, such as polyp removal, during the test. Such a procedure will require retesting under the traditional means. Virtual colonoscopy also requires thorough bowel cleansing, and it is used mainly for people who have extreme anxiety about the standard colonoscopy or for those whose medical condition rules out its performance.
7. A special diet is required also after a colonoscopy.
After recovering for about one hour, you can resume normal activities, including meals.
8. If you don’t have any suspicious symptoms, you don’t need a colonoscopy.
This is perhaps the most dangerous myth about colonoscopy, since people can have malignant tumors in their bowel without experiencing any symptoms. When definite symptoms appear, the disease has already progressed and treatment may be far more complex. This is why we recommend undergoing a colonoscopy every five to ten years, according to your treating physician’s instructions.