BRADENTON, Fla. - March is colorectal cancer awareness month. One of the best ways to protect yourself is early detection, but many put off getting a colonoscopy because of fear.
Colorectal cancer is the 2nd-leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society. It is preventable, so why are we so afraid of a diagnostic procedure that can possibly save our life?
"This is the end that has the video chip on it so you can actually see. It's like watching live tv." Registered nurse Gigi Beu says colonoscopies save lives. Yet people are reluctant to get them.
These are the objections. "Oh they are horrible. Oh, the prep is terrible," says Beu.
Times have changed. You drink less fluid, and the prep is less disruptive, says Dr. Alphonso Belsito. "They don't have to take as many laxatives, they don't have to use enemas, they can basically drink approximately 2-3 liters or quarts of fluid over four hours."
Mark Rantz had his first colonoscopy four years ago, and he was scared. "Yes, I had a lot of anxiety before-hand, yes I did."
His fear was of the unknown. "It was just not being familiar with the procedure. I wasn't quite sure how I was going to be able to handle it."
Beu says the procedure is less invasive than it seems, and concerns are largely based on modesty. "It's the area that’s involved, it’s a private area people don't like to be invaded."
The painless procedure is performed with sedation. "We usually use intravenous propofol, so the patient is in a definite sleep."
The fifteen to thirty minute procedure is not just for those with a history of colon cancer. “Everyone should be concerned. You've got to start somewhere to have a family history."
With no history, you should still get a baseline colonoscopy at age 50.
Gants says he was relieved and surprised it went as well as it did. He was back at work the next day. "I remember talking to the doctor for a minute or two before the procedure started, and the next thing I remember I was in the recovery room."
80% of patients diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer have no family history.
As of now, a colonoscopy is still the premiere way to diagnose malignant or pre-malignant tumors of the colon.