The “Not-So-Fun-Must-Do” Colonoscopy

We all take pictures and brag about the wonderful things we have done and places we have visited.  But this is one topic we all probably try to avoid.  If you are reading this, chances are you are over 50.   This may be worthwhile reading for those who have tried every persuading argument not to go have a colonoscopy.  Let me tell why you why you should not procrastinate further.

  • Most of the colorectal cancer cases occur in people who are 50 and older – about 90%.
  • Colorectal cancer is a deadly disease.  Most die because it is detected too late.  The good news is that it almost always develops from polyps and it takes many years to become cancerous.  Even better news is that if found, polyps can be easily removed before it turns dangerous.
  • There is a genetic connection to colorectal cancer – this means that if your parents or siblings has polyps or colorectal cancer, it increases your chances significantly.   If you fall into this group, make sure you discuss with your doctor about when you need to start screening and how often to repeat.
  • Yes, colonoscopy is not cheap and a real pain in the butt (no pun intended) but if you get a referral from your polyclinic you pay less than half of what private hospitals will charge you when you get it done at restructured hospitals.  They will normally give you a referral if you are over 50.

Here are some tips from someone who has been through it a few times.

  • Start by going to a polyclinic to get referral as colonoscopies are normally done at a hospital in their endoscopy unit.  If you skip this step, they will treat you as a private patient and will cost you over $500 more than you would have to otherwise pay.  If you have private insurance, please check if they cover it if done as part of a medical check-up versus diagnosis.
  • You will have to prep your bowel so that it is nice and clean on the inside to make sure there are no “things” blocking the view or “sticking” to your colon wall.  You will be asked to go on soft diet and avoid foods that will impede the clarity of the exam.  
  • The night before the procedure, you will be given a laxative to take along with about a gallon of water.  To me, this is the worst part.  You will be going to the restroom quite a few times as your colon is being flushed out.
  • On the next day, plan to arrive on time.  You will go through a short medical interview and then an IV will be placed in your hand.
  • You will be sedated for the procedure so please make sure that someone is there to drive you home or accompany you if you are taking public transportation. 
  • The procedure is relatively painless but you may feel some discomfort with the scope .  The exam takes about 30 minutes.  After that you will be put in holding area for observation for about 30-40 minutes.  You are almost done.
  • In some cases, the doctor will tell you before you go home if it is “all clear” or if follow up is needed.  Do not forget to ask for a printout of your photos (in case you want to show off your insides).

There you have it – it is done.  And depending on what the doctor says, you may not need to repeat for 3-5 years.

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