Skip the Excuse, NOT Your Colonoscopy

Our experts offer reBUT­Tals to com­mon excus­es used to delay get­ting a colonoscopy

It’s no secret that com­plet­ing pre­ven­tive screen­ings, like a colonoscopy, sig­nif­i­cant­ly low­ers your risk of devel­op­ing (or dying from) col­orec­tal can­cer. Despite this, col­orec­tal can­cer remains one of the lead­ing caus­es of can­cer-relat­ed deaths among both men and women in the Unit­ed States today. Stay­ing up-to-date with pre­ven­tive screen­ings is espe­cial­ly impor­tant for col­orec­tal can­cer because it is slow-form­ing and often has no symp­toms until it has pro­gressed to an advanced stage. Com­plet­ing a colonoscopy helps to detect (and remove) any pre-can­cer­ous or can­cer­ous growths that may have devel­oped with­in your colon as ear­ly as possible.

If you are at an aver­age risk of devel­op­ing col­orec­tal can­cer, you should com­plete a colonoscopy when you turn 50. Those at a high­er risk may be advised to start screen­ing ear­li­er or more fre­quent­ly. Even though it has been proven to be an extreme­ly effec­tive way to pre­vent col­orec­tal can­cer, near­ly a third of eli­gi­ble adults have not com­plet­ed their colonoscopy. To encour­age you to com­plete your screen­ing, our board-cer­ti­fied Gas­troen­terol­o­gists offer their reBUT­Tals to some of the most com­mon excus­es used to delay get­ting a colonoscopy.

Excuse #1 — I feel fine.

Most peo­ple with col­orec­tal can­cer (or pre-can­cer­ous polyps) don’t know they have it. In most cas­es, polyps can go unde­tect­ed for years and can take as many as 10 to 15 years to become can­cer­ous. Col­orec­tal can­cer can also devel­op unde­tect­ed, as symp­toms grad­u­al­ly appear only when the can­cer has reached a more advanced stage.

Dur­ing a colonoscopy, your gas­troen­terol­o­gist close­ly exam­ines your large intes­tine and removes any polyps found BEFORE they have had a chance to progress. Remov­ing these abnor­mal growths pre­ven­tive­ly saves you from devel­op­ing col­orec­tal can­cer in the future. If unde­tect­ed polyps advance to col­orec­tal can­cer, over time it can cause symp­toms such as changes in your bow­el habits, rec­tal bleed­ing and weight loss.

Excuse #2 — I don’t have time.

A colonoscopy (includ­ing the pro­ce­dure prep) typ­i­cal­ly only requires you to miss one day of work. The actu­al pro­ce­dure, from the moment you enter the facil­i­ty to the moment you leave, can be com­plet­ed with­in a few hours. Dur­ing that time, any polyps that are found are removed and are sent to a pathol­o­gist for fur­ther eval­u­a­tion. Pathol­o­gy test­ing is done quick­ly, often pro­vid­ing you with a bet­ter under­stand­ing of your diges­tive health in as lit­tle as a day or two.

On the oth­er hand, treat­ing col­orec­tal can­cer requires fre­quent check-up appoint­ments with a med­ical oncol­o­gist and oth­er spe­cial­ists, as well as appoint­ments for treat­ments includ­ing chemother­a­py and/​or surgery. Depend­ing on the stage of the can­cer, your over­all health and response to treat­ment, these appoint­ments can span months and, in some cas­es, years. Tak­ing a day off of work now to com­plete your colonoscopy not only can have a last­ing impact on your health, it can save you a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time in the long-run.

Excuse #3 — I don’t want to do the pre-pro­ce­dure prep.

Many peo­ple delay their colonoscopy because they are anx­ious or unsure about the pre-pro­ce­dure bow­el cleanse. While you may want to skip this step, it’s nec­es­sary. It pro­vides your gas­troen­terol­o­gist with a clear view of your intes­tine to bet­ter detect any polyps that may have formed. While you may have heard less than rave-reviews about the prep solu­tion, it’s come a long way since it was orig­i­nal­ly intro­duced. Now, the amount of the solu­tion you’re required to drink is less and is tak­en in two sep­a­rate dos­es. Split­ting the dose can sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduce many of the pre­vi­ous­ly-report­ed side effects includ­ing bloat­ing and nau­sea. The taste and tex­ture of the solu­tion has improved as well. Using a chilled glass or a straw and mix­ing the prep solu­tion with clear juices, sodas or sports drinks can also help.

Excuse #4 — Can’t I just sub­mit a stool sample?

Stool sam­ple tests have become more com­mon­ly pro­mot­ed as an easy, non­in­va­sive screen­ing option for col­orec­tal can­cer. Tra­di­tion­al­ly, these tests were used to detect small amounts of blood with­in your stool. While it is effec­tive in detect­ing the pres­ence of blood, the test isn’t always a reli­able way to detect can­cer, its suc­cess rate is around 70 per­cent. This is because blood in your stool may be caused by sev­er­al non-can­cer relat­ed con­di­tions and it isn’t able to detect polyps. If your stool sam­ple is pos­i­tive for blood, you will need to com­plete a diag­nos­tic colonoscopy to deter­mine the source and check for polyps or oth­er abnor­mal­i­ties with­in your colon.*

Some new­er stool tests not only check for blood, they also eval­u­ate the DNA found in your stool for signs of can­cer. This extra step makes them more effec­tive than the old­er stool sam­ple tests in detect­ing can­cer or pre­can­cer­ous polyps. These new­er tests detect approx­i­mate­ly 92 per­cent of can­cers and 40 per­cent of pre­can­cer­ous polyps, how­ev­er, they are still not as effec­tive as a colonoscopy.

Colonoscopy screen­ings remain the gold stan­dard for col­orec­tal can­cer detec­tion and pre­ven­tion, boast­ing an aver­age detec­tion rate of about 95 per­cent of can­cers and pre­can­cer­ous polyps. The key dif­fer­ence here is iden­ti­fy­ing pre­can­cer­ous polyps and remov­ing them before they have a chance to devel­op into cancer.

*Many insur­ance plans cov­er a screen­ing colonoscopy but may have dif­fer­ent require­ments for a diag­nos­tic colonoscopy. As with any pro­ce­dure, it is impor­tant to check with your insur­ance car­ri­er to ver­i­fy your coverage.

Excuse #5 — It’s too expensive

Medicare and most com­mer­cial insur­ance plans cov­er the cost for many pre­ven­tive screen­ings, includ­ing colono­scopies. Check with your health insur­ance plan for infor­ma­tion about your out-of-pock­et expens­es includ­ing co-pay­ments or an annu­al deductible, and make sure your gas­troen­terol­o­gist and the treat­ment facil­i­ty is with­in your plan’s net­work. It’s impor­tant to keep in mind that out-of-pock­et costs asso­ci­at­ed with a colonoscopy, if any, are sig­nif­i­cant­ly less than the cost of can­cer treat­ments, should they be needed.

What­ev­er your rea­son has been for delay­ing your colonoscopy, we encour­age you to sched­ule your poten­tial­ly life­sav­ing screen­ing today. For added con­ve­nience, you may be able to skip the pre-pro­ce­dure appoint­ment and com­plete a free colonoscopy con­sul­ta­tion over the phone with one of our skilled nurs­es. Dur­ing the call, our staff will pro­vide you with pre- and post-care infor­ma­tion and answer any ques­tions you may have. To find out if you are eli­gi­ble for this ser­vice, or to sched­ule your screen­ing colonoscopy, call our Gas­troen­terol­o­gy depart­ment at 630−717−2600.

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