Up Yours? Why a Colonoscopy Scares the Bejesus Out of Us (Along with Colon Cancer)

Getting a colonoscopy is really no big deal. The procedure is virtually painless, and it could offer an early warning of a malignancy that could eventually kill you if left untreated.

Cancer is nothing to laugh about, but isn’t it funny how many people turn into wussies when it comes to getting a colonoscopy?

You’d figure that a chance to save your own life would be a no-brainer if it made sense. But a new survey showed that one major factor prevents Americans from protecting themselves with a colonoscopy: fear. They fear the procedure itself, and they fear what the results might reveal. And they probably just fear the fear.

Sure, most of us really don’t enjoy having an instrument shoved up our behind, and it sounds like the gallon’s worth of laxative solution that colonoscopy patients must drink is for some even more daunting than the procedure itself.

Kills 50,000 Americans Annually

Colon cancer kills roughly 50,000 annually. 

But still, we’re talking about the second-most common form of cancer here, a devastating disease that costs about 50,000 Americans their lives every year. So shouldn’t we just get over ourselves and take it like a man (or woman)? Males and females are both equally at risk for colon cancer, by the way.

A survey by the Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA) indicated that:

  • Nearly 70 percent of the male and females who were at least 50 years old have never had a colonoscopy, primarily due to fears.
  • About 73 percent of the patients agreed that bowel prep remains the toughest part of the colonoscopy procedure. In addition to downing the yucky PEG (polyethylene glycol electrolyte) drink mentioned above, patients may consume only clear liquids 24 hours before testing.
  • Half of those surveyed said the actual colonoscopy procedure itself was the easiest part of the whole testing experience. See, it’s not so bad after all.

Some patients would apparently rather face death than undergo a colonoscopy. Take the case of one over-50 survey participant who witnessed three family members die of colon cancer. Yet the patient has not received a colonoscopy out of fear.

Maybe some sobering numbers would help people stand up to colon cancer and take action. Simply put, the longer you wait, the quicker you pass on.

  • More than 90 percent of colon cancer patients survive more than five years when the disease is found at a local stage (confined to colon or rectum).
  • If colon cancer is diagnosed at a regional stage (spread to surrounding tissue), only 66 percent of patients survive at least five years.
  • When colon cancer is identified after it has already spread to distant sites, only 8.5 percent of those diagnosed reach the five-year milestone for survival.

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the American Cancer Society urge all patients to begin receiving colon cancer screenings once they reach the age of 50 but earlier if their family has a history of the disease.

Colonoscopies can actually help prevent cancer because they can identify precancerous changes and benign polyps that can be treated before they turn cancerous.

If you’ve found this information helpful and would like to see more of the same, including the latest developments on the consumer health front, follow our blog on a regular basis.

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