Colonoscopy myths busted

Procedure can spot polyps in the colon before they turn into cancer


March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer-related death in the  United States. according to the American Cancer Society. The good news is it's preventable.

A colonoscopy can spot polyps in the colon before they turn into cancer. Dr. Ryan Williams, who treats colon cancer at Cleveland Clinic, says a common misconception is that a colonoscopy is painful.

"Colonoscopies are not painful. The only thing a patient may experience, most don't, but may experience sensations of bloating and the sensation of maybe some cramping, but the sensation of pain is not something that is common during a colonoscopy," Williams explained.

During a colonoscopy, a long flexible tube with a camera is put into the colon. In order for the doctor to clearly see the lining of the colon, it must be empty and clean. 

Mmany people dread preparing their colon for a colonoscopy, which involves drinking special 'prep' solution to flush everything out of the colon, but Williams says the solution isn't what it used to be.

"The prep that we used say, five maybe ten years ago, it was about a gallon of fluid that the patient had to drink," said Williams. "Most of the time the fluid they drink now is about 2 liters, about half of that, so it's gotten a lot better."

Some people believe that you only need a colonoscopy if you have a family history of colon cancer but that's a myth.

"80% of the patients that are diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer do not have a family history. That's why it's very important for everyone of age, which is usually 50 years of age, to have a colonoscopy to make certain that there are no precancer lesions or polyps in the colon and if there are, we remove them," Williams explained.

Williams adds that it's important to have an experienced doctor doing your colonoscopy who has experience removing polyps and treating people with colon problems.