Updated: Jul 30
I just had a colonoscopy, and I'm not gonna lie, this post is inspired by it. It was my first colonoscopy and it was a big deal for me. As a family doctor in practice for 15 years, I've prescribed hundreds of colonoscopies to my patients over the years. Going through the process, however, was eye-opening.
I had the choice of doing a Cologuard test or a colonoscopy but I chose the colonoscopy for two reasons: 1) I wanted to understand what the process was like for my patients and
2) with the colonoscopy, the American College of Gastroenterology reminds us that "your doctor can see and remove pre-cancers called polyps and prevent or detect or confirm colorectal cancer all in 1 step." There are additional colon cancer screening tests so make sure you talk to your doctor about which one is right for you.
As you know, I'm usually most comfortable sharing ALL of my business on social media *sigh*. Undergoing a colonoscopy is no different, so I shared the WHOLE process here. (My dad is sitting somewhere shaking his head right now).
So, let's get to it, shall we? Here are 5 myths and 1 truth about getting a colonoscopy:
1) All Colonoscopy Preps Are the Same: Nope. The prep I used for my colonoscopy is not necessarily the prep you will use. When you watch the videos of my prep (or talk to your friends about theirs) don't be surprised if it's not what you did or will do.
2) It Hurts: No, with proper anesthesia it doesn't hurt. Someone recently wrote on one of my social media posts that the colonoscopy hurts. It doesn't. Yes, it is possible to have complications from the colonoscopy, but getting a colonoscopy generally does not hurt.
3) You Should Get a Colonoscopy Every 10 Years: Not necessarily. I was hoping that my next colonoscopy would be in 10 years, but alas it is not. (Watch here to find out the reason why). The truth is that some people need colonoscopies every 1, 3, 5, 7 years, or some other time frame. The point is, everyone has a different recommendation for when their next colonoscopy is based on their medical history, etc.
4) Colon Cancer Screening Should Start at 50 yrs/old: False. Regardless of whether you get a colonoscopy or use another approved colon cancer screening modality, colon cancer screening should start at the age of 45 for people at average risk. If you are at increased risk for colon cancer you may need to be screened sooner- just talk to your doctor to find out which risk category you fall in.
5) You Only Need to Be Screened if You Have Symptoms of Colon Cancer: False. Many colorectal cancers won't even have symptoms. You need to get screened for colon cancer regardless of whether you think you have symptoms or not. Everyone should be screened for colon cancer, not only those who have symptoms. You should also be screened for colon cancer regardless of how "healthy" you feel you are.
And now for the truth:
The Worst Part is the Prep. Yes, yes, and more yes. The worst part IS the prep. One fun fact I learned during my prep is that I should have poured all the Gatorade I had to drink into a pitcher and mixed the Miralax there and then poured it all back into the individual jugs. If you saw the video of me trying to put Miralax into each individual jug you understand what I mean. (There's also the moment I spilled Miralax all over my kitchen floor, but I won't get into that...).
There are a lot of myths floating around about colonoscopies so make sure you're informed. Speak with your doctor about any questions you have and remember that not everything you read on the internet or hear from people around you is accurate.
More than anything, remember that colon cancer screening saves lives. Make sure you get screened.
I hope this is helpful,
Dr. Jen Caudle is a board-certified Family Physician, Associate Professor at Rowan University, tv health expert, and video creator. Sign up to receive Dr. Jen's Daily Health Tips to get daily emails (Mon-Fri) with health information you can use to live a healthier life. Follow her on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.