No one is ever excited about having a colonoscopy. Going in many patients are anxious, and have a lot of questions. Here are the answers to the three questions I get more often.
Can I Just Take a Pill to Get Cleaned Out as Opposed to Drinking All That Fluid?
There used to be a pill prep but it was pulled off the market due to the risk of kidney injury. Furthermore, it was not one pill. You had to take 32 pills with 64 ounces of water. There are newer preps on the market which can be taken as a split dose which tend to be better tolerated. Bottom line is that there is no pleasant and easy way to prep for a colonoscopy. You just have to do it.
What Is a Polyp and What Causes It?
A polyp is a lesion on the lining of the surface of the colon. They can be flat/carpet like or on a stalk like a mushroom. Most are precancerous and if left untreated will turn into cancer. There are many reasons why polyps develop. The main reason is due to genetic changes in the cells on the lining of the colon that cause a polyp to grow. Another genetic change then causes the polyp to turn cancerous. These changes can be inherited or caused by diet or environmental factors.
Why Is a Colonoscopy Recommended at Age 50?
The risk of colon cancer at ages younger than 50 is small and the risk goes up significantly past the age of 50. At the time of colonoscopy, your doctor is looking for polyps. Most of these polyps can be removed at the time of the procedure which then eliminates the risk of that polyp turning into cancer. This makes colonoscopy an especially effective tool at preventing cancer because precancerous lesions are removed before they have a chance to turn into cancer as opposed to other screening modalities like mammography which are effective by finding cancer earlier.
If you are age 50 or over please schedule a colonoscopy. This is a life saving screening that can stop cancer before it forms or catch it in its earliest stages.