Do I Need a Colonoscopy?
Last updated: November 2021
I had my first colonoscopy in 2021 due to a life-threatening anemia, unexplained fatigue, weight loss, and abdominal pain. Most cultures have some taboos around this area, making it an embarrassing topic for some people to discuss. I hope my story helps you or someone you love to take advantage of this important health screening. It might just save your life.
What is a colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy is a nonsurgical examination of the colon. A doctor uses a small camera mounted within a flexible thin tube to access the colon through the rectum. The examination may also include the removal of polyps and biopsies.1
What is it for?
Endoscopists can remove precancers and identify cancers through colonoscopy. Issues like ulcers, diverticulitis, digestive disorders, and other damage to the colon can also be evaluated during the procedure.1
Who gets them?
Colonoscopies are part of routine health screenings for people aged 45 and up, individuals with an elevated risk of certain cancers, with digestive disorders, and for people displaying constitutional symptoms.1
Does this matter to me?
It's likely that our readers or somebody they love is at risk for colorectal cancer, here’s why.
Spondyloarthritis patients have a higher cancer risk compared to the general population, including colorectal cancer.2
Colorectal cancer deaths are increasing in younger patients.3 Folks in their 20s and 30s are being diagnosed, often at the terminal stage. They may delay treatment, dismissing the possibility of colon cancer at their age. To make matters worse, current screening protocols also exclude most younger patients.
Colorectal cancer is not inevitable
Colorectal cancer is preventable in patients receiving screenings because endoscopists remove problem areas before they can become cancer. And detecting cancer before it can spread improves survival.4 Please read this again.
But this sounds awful!
I was very nervous about getting one, mainly because I lost one grandparent to colon cancer and another to diverticulitis. And anything in the bathing suit area makes me nervous. But it was totally fine.
It was no big deal
The team at my hospital’s endoscopy center was professional and compassionate. They never made me feel embarrassed or uncomfortable. They let me have 2 gowns, with the openings facing opposite directions and kept my back warm during the procedure to prevent pain. I get it, nobody wants a colonoscopy, but this powerful tool of diagnosis and prevention is too good to pass up.
Go to the doctor if you have abdominal pain any changes in bowel habits. Don't give up until you get answers AND you have recovered.
If you’re worried about getting a colonoscopy please share a list of concerns with your healthcare provider or some other trustworthy person. This can help you process these issues and move on.
Colon cancer numbers in older people (with access to care) are decreasing because colonoscopy disrupts precancerous areas from turning into cancer. Colorectal cancer is preventable and treatable when caught early on. We can't say the same thing about some other illnesses.
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