This is part of a series of 3 blog posts whereby a family member (FM) of a patient is having a discussion on colonoscopy and colon cancer screening with a gastroenterologist (D). Many individuals find reasons to put off their recommended colon cancer screening. Many of these objections to screening are addressed in this series. If you know someone who is resisting having their screening performed, please print or email them these 3 posts. It could save their life!
FM: I am afraid of going to sleep. I hate to be out of control of my own body.
D: It is a short procedure where patients wake up right after the procedure and talk to their doctor. The sedation does not make you sleepy all day.
You are, in fact, more in control of your body and health by doing a colonoscopy, because you have taken appropriate measures to protect against future illness and cancer.
FM: I am afraid I won’t wake up, like Michael Jackson… or not be able to breathe. I have sleep apnea!
D: You should be concerned about sleep apnea and snoring- concerned enough to take action, lose weight, or see your physician for appropriate measures to help you.
You should be concerned about your breathing and oxygen levels every night you go to sleep, with sleep apnea and snoring
You should not be concerned about sleep apnea during the procedure. Trained staff monitors your oxygen levels, blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate continuously during the procedure, so we can prevent and treat any problems that may arise. In fact, the scenario of sleeping during colonoscopy is one of the best you can undergo with sleep apnea, if there is one. You are assured of your safety, more than an unmonitored setting at home.
If there is any indication of an episode of sleep apnea during the procedure, even if you were not aware of it previously, we will inform you so that you can take care of the problem.
We monitor while you are medicated and it is all carried out by appropriately trained staff with adequate monitoring and necessary equipment.
FM: My friend didn’t do it until he was 70 and he did not have any problems.
D: Chances are good that you don’t have your friend’s genes or his diet. So, you can’t compare your circumstances to theirs.
Studies, comprised of thousands of patients, have shown that the risk of polyps is higher in people after 50 years of age. So, the national societies have set guidelines for everyone to follow.
FM: Yes, I know! My mother had polyps when she was 58.
D: Now, you are talking! Although the recommended screening age for the general population is 50, if you have a first degree family member- parents, brothers/sisters, children- who’ve had colon cancer or polyps (as these could become cancer), you should start your screening colonoscopy at 40 years. Most insurance companies follow these guidelines which is important for coverage of your colon cancer screening.
FM: I don’t want any pain. My friend had a lot of pain when he did it
D: Here’s your family member, waking from a delightful “nap,” safe and well-rested. It doesn’t look like there was any pain. We are beyond the days of pain. Safe, effective sedation, adjusted per your needs, largely sees to that. Also, a well-trained gastroenterologist, who performs a high volume of procedures daily, should know how to avoid incurring pain for the patient and safely complete the procedure.
FM: I heard of someone who had a problem after colonoscopy.
D: Complications are uncommon. Serious complications are even rarer after a colonoscopy. Any procedure may have potential complications. The risk of an auto accident is higher than the risk of a colonoscopy complication. If that fear doesn’t keep you from driving, you should not avoid a colonoscopy.
FM: I don’t want surgery.
D: That’s why you should do a screening colonoscopy when suggested. Surgery is generally only necessitated for patients that wait until their condition is severe, and it is too late. These patients may have part of their colon removed and end up with a colostomy, which is “the bag” attached to colon through the abdominal wall.
By doing a preventive procedure, we can prevent colon cancer and surgery. If an early cancer is found before symptoms occur, it could be removed completely during colonoscopy or by minimally invasive surgery without the need for a colostomy in most cases.
FM: I want my colonoscopy in a private room.
D: Each patient has a dedicated nurse, technician, anesthesia provider, and a doctor who will care for you in a private room during the procedure. Our admitting and recovery staff are well trained and experienced to meet your needs before and following the procedure.
Get Behind Screening!
Everyone should strongly consider having colon cancer screening procedures performed at a high volume center where the staff is most experienced and well-trained. Recent research indicates that the best outcomes happen when a colonoscopy is performed by a board-certified gastroenterologist, as opposed to other physicians with less colonoscopy volume and subsequently less experience.
Board-certified gastroenterologists are trained for better detection and removal of polyps and appropriate treatment of any conditions noted, than other types of providers who may be just able to do a procedure. GI Alliance is dedicated to performing only gastrointestinal procedures with utmost levels of precision and care.