There are many reasons why many people choose to avoid having a colonoscopy. All too often, however, the reluctance towards colonoscopies is based on misunderstandings – both of the procedure, and colon cancer in general.
Colon cancer is, in fact, one of the most preventable and treatable cancers, and early diagnosis through a colonoscopy is essential.
Let’s tackle the seven key misconceptions that keep you from getting this short, mildly uncomfortable test that could save your life.
#1: “I’m not at risk of colon cancer.”
When it comes to colon cancer, everyone is at risk - and the incidence of colorectal cancer is higher in the UAE than other parts of the world. Colorectal polyps – which are the precursors of colon cancer – can be removed during colonoscopy to prevent cancer, so it is recommended that everyone has regular colonoscopies from 40 years old onwards.
#2: “I don’t have any symptoms, so I don’t need a colonoscopy.”
In the majority of cases, colon cancer begins as polyps in your colon, and doesn’t present any symptoms. Through a colonoscopy, these polyps are detected and removed before they turn into cancer, and before they cause any symptoms. Furthermore, even many cancers may not cause any symptoms.
#3: “The prep tastes horrible.”
The biggest deterrent to getting a colonoscopy has to be drinking the bowel preparation. Now, however, it’s less inconvenient and uncomfortable than before. In most cases, you don’t have to drink 4 liters of the prep, you can choose a lower volume option. Doctors can also prescribe a split dose, half the prep to be taken the night before, and the other half on the morning of the procedure, making it a little easier as well.
#4: “I can’t handle the discomfort or pain of a colonoscopy.”
Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi offers monitored anesthesia care. This is a deep and safe sedation and most patients do not have any recollection of the procedure.
#5: “The procedure is too risky. What if my colon is perforated?”
Colonoscopies need to be performed by specially trained professionals, the risk of perforation in such cases is less than 1 in 1,000 cases, and the risk of bleeding less than 1%.
#6: “I can’t avoid getting colorectal cancer.”
Colon cancer is a highly preventable cancer - all you need to do to prevent it is to start getting colonoscopies from the age of 40, or earlier if you have risk factors. Improving your diet, maintaining a normal body weight, exercising and avoiding smoking, decreases your risk even further.