Men's Health, Women's Health, Your Health Ben Brown | 2 years ago

Ask a Doc: Why is Getting a Colonoscopy so Important?

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US – and this is something we can prevent, says Amit Aravapalli, MD, a gastroenterologist at Mecklenburg Medical Group, part of Carolinas HealthCare System. Even so, many people are still resistant to the idea of actually getting one.

 Q: We know it’s important to catch colon cancer early, but why exactly?

A:

Yes, finding it early is key – regular screenings can lower your risk of developing colon cancer by 90 percent. Think about the colon in terms of layers, like a cake. If a growth impacts that very top layer, the ‘icing’ let’s say, then usually it will just require a simple surgery to remove. However, if the growth gets into the cake and into those deeper layers where the lymph nodes and blood vessels are located, then not only is surgery needed, but potentially treatments like radiation and chemotherapy.

Q: Other than being at high risk (having a family history, having Crohn’s or colitis, or being age 50 or older), are there any other factors that would warrant a colonoscopy?

A:

Yes, the biggest red flag is seeing blood in the stool – that is not normal. Unfortunately, a lot of people who have blood in their stool brush it off as being hemorrhoids or a bacterial infection, so there is a delay in the diagnosis. If you have significant abdominal pain or blood in your stool, those are things you’ll want to discuss with your primary care doctor and see if they think a colonoscopy is necessary.

Q: If polyps are removed, is there any discomfort or achiness after the colonoscopy?

A:

No, generally speaking, people have no symptoms related to polyp removal, unless there was a very large polyp or growth and an unforeseen complication during the removal. But, in terms of complications, this is a very safe procedure with a less than 0.1 percent risk of any serious complications.

Q: What do you say to someone who is reluctant to get a colonoscopy?

A:

I try to encourage patients to keep the end goal in the back of their mind, which is that they’re doing this to prevent a serious and potentially life-threatening cancer. We simply shouldn’t be losing 50,000 people a year from colon cancer – it is something that’s very fixable and we need to do a better job at preventing it.   To schedule a colonoscopy or to find out if you are at risk of developing colon cancer, call 704-512-6920 or visit CarolinasHealthCare.org/Colon6920