Q&A: Why getting a colonoscopy is so important

We all know that a healthy lifestyle involves exercise and nutrition, but it also involves being proactive with your annual screenings and preventive care. This is especially true when it comes to an exam so many people put off – colonoscopies. 

Deepa Shah, MD, a gastroenterologist at HonorHealth, shares important information about colorectal health and cancer prevention in this Q&A.

Q: Why are colonoscopies important?

A: Colorectal cancer is the third most leading cause of cancer mortality, but it’s a preventable cancer. If we do a colonoscopy and find polyps, we can remove them and prevent them from turning into cancer. Also, if we find cancer through a colonoscopy at an early stage, we can effectively remove it or treat it before it spreads throughout the body.

Q: What exactly is a colonoscopy?

A:The colonoscopy itself is an examination where we insert a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera into the rectum and move it all throughout the colon to visualize it. If we see polyps, we remove them during the procedure.

Q: What happens if you find polyps during a colonoscopy?

A:There are different types of polyps. There are what are called hyperplastic polyps, which are not cancerous at all. All the other types of polyps are generally pre-cancerous. Those trigger an increased risk for colon cancer and an increased surveillance interval for less than 10 years depending on the size of the polyp, the histology of the polyp and how many polyps are detected during your screening.

Q: How long does the procedure take?

A:The patient needs to check in one hour prior to the examination. The procedure is scheduled for 30 minutes. Then, the patient is watched in recovery for 20 minutes for a brief monitoring period following anesthesia.

Q: What does the prep look like prior to a colonoscopy?

A:The good news is that we now have lower volume preps available. You just mix a packet with water into a small container we provide for you and drink two of those – one from about 6 – 8 p.m. the night before your procedure and the second one early in the morning. Some preps available even have flavors.

Q: When should people get a colonoscopy screening?

A:Screening colonoscopy is recommended in the U.S. for all adults ages 45-75 for both men and women. If there’s a strong family history of colon cancer, that should prompt someone to find a gastroenterologist sooner and have a colonoscopy done – because sometimes genetics are involved.

Q: With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, is it okay to postpone a colonoscopy?

A:It’s so important to go get screened. We have many safety measures in place to keep patients safe, including germ-zapping robots that use UV light to disinfect environments and destroy coronavirus and other germs, screening when you enter an HonorHealth facility and requiring masks inside our facilities. We also use personal protective equipment to protect ourselves and our patients from transmission.

Don't wait

A colonoscopy isn’t something to ignore. If you have polyps or an early cancer, this important screening can help you live longer and give you a better quality of life. 

Find a gastroenterologist today and discuss a screening plan that’s right for you. 

Learn more about what to expect.

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