Colonoscopy: Fact vs. Fiction: August 8, 2014

Of all the cancer screenings, colonoscopy is surely the most under-appreciated.

“Yes. There’s a miscommunication, misunderstanding about what the whole procedure is,” says Dr. Irma Cruz, who is a gastroenterologist on medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.

Let the myth-busting begin: colonoscopy is a powerful prognosticator, but is not a major medical undertaking and does not require hospitalization.

“They don't need to miss a lot of days of work; it should not be painful experience. It's a very safe procedure that is very well tolerated and done routinely,” says Dr. Cruz.

Another falsehood: if you don’t have symptoms, you don’t need one. Actually the opposite is true - colorectal cancers have no early signs, which is why it’s important to stick to the guidelines.

“The majority of people that develop colon cancer are 50 and older. That’s why we start screening at age 50. But if there is family history of colon cancer or polyps, the recommendation is to do it sooner,” says Dr. Cruz.

It is an absolute truth that colonoscopy is one of the most successful screenings ever. In fact, it is the only test that can not only find cancer, but may prevent it from forming.

“We use a flexible tube that has a light and a camera and we’re able to see the lining of the colon and basically we’re looking for polyps which are abnormal growths in the lining. We can remove them and this decreases the chances of getting colon cancer,” says Dr. Cruz.

Lastly, a partial truism, involving the dreaded prep: patients must take a laxative to clear the colon- but the effects are short-lived.

 “They can eat right after. The next day you can go back to your normal activities,” says Dr. Cruz.

Making the benefits of this least-loved screening far outweigh the inconvenience.