Medically Reviewed by Deepak Chowdhary, MD
Colonoscopy is a unique cancer screening procedure. First, it can find polyps and prevent them from growing into cancer. Second, it only takes two days of your life. The advantages far offset the disadvantages, says McLeod Gastroenterologist Deepak Chowdhary, MD:
Here is a summary of Dr. Chowdhary’s remarks:
I know that colonoscopy is not on anyone’s list of things to do for fun. But, it does save lives. In fact it is one of the few diagnostic procedures known to save lives. Deciding to forgo colonoscopy can put you at risk of losing your life and taking you away from your loved ones. For this reason it is very important for everyone to have a colonoscopy. If not regularly, then at least once in your lifetime. Even that one screening will reduce the risk of you having colon cancer.
It generally takes two days to prepare for the procedure. The day before, you prep yourself by drinking laxative. The day of the procedure, we give you a sedative. We require you to have someone drive you to the test and back home. The actual procedure takes about 20 to 30 minutes. These days we are also using Propafol for providing deeper sedation. Patients do not feel much discomfort and they recover faster. After the procedure, we prefer that you return home and rest for the remainder of the day.
During the procedure polyps may be removed. Usually by looking at the polyps at the time of the test, we can tell how advanced they are and how likely they are to be cancerous.
In about 60 to 70 percent of patients, we find no polyps. In 30 to 40 percent, we do find polyps. In only about 10 to 20 percent of patients are the polyps advanced. Most of the time, the polyps are small and can be removed during the colonoscopy.
If we detect polyps, I generally recommend that people change their lifestyle by increasing their fiber intake, doing more physical activity and taking a baby aspirin if you are not already taking one daily. These measures may help in preventing the development of polyps.