The Truth About the Safety of Colonoscopies

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Studies show that colonoscopies are quite safe.A very important way of diagnosing colon cancer early is by having a colonoscopy. While the rates of adults receiving this simple procedure vary in the U.S., some people get worried about the side effects of a colonoscopy. But worry not, as a colonoscopy is very important and highly unlikely to cause any health issues.

You don’t just get colon cancer suddenly. Polyps that aren’t yet cancerous gradually develop over a long period of time. It is these polyps that a colonoscopy can identify—and often, the doctor can remove them at that very moment.

A new study from Germany has found that only 20% of patients make use of the colonoscopy screening program. Here in the U.S., the percentage of adults 50 to 75 years old who are up-to-date with colonoscopies ranges from 51% to 75%.

One of the issues is that people think the procedure is unpleasant. The other is that complications can happen. But the new study found that colonoscopies are quite safe. One of the concerns is the fear of intestinal bleeding—but it only happens about five times for every 10,000 colonoscopies. Minor injuries to the intestinal wall can also happen—but less than once per 1,000 exams.

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These are very low risks, and they only potentially happen when a large polyp is found and removed. But then again, finding that large polyp was critical in the fist place, because it was quite likely to turn into colon cancer.

The new numbers come from data on more than 33,000 Germans who had outpatient colonoscopies (meaning you leave the hospital after the procedure). Researchers analyzed how many serious adverse events occurred, such as intestinal wall injuries, intestinal bleeding requiring hospitalization, heart attacks, stroke and even deaths.

Colon cancer is the most common cancer that affects both sexes. It is among the most deadly cancers. But it is also one that can be very much prevented through screening tests. There is no substitute for a colonoscopy. And there is no need to fear one.

Sources for Today’s Articles:
The Truth About the Safety of Colonoscopies
Stock, C., et al., “Adverse Events requiring hospitalization within 30 days after outpatient screening and nonscreening colonoscopies,” Gastrointestinal Endoscopy 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.gie.2012.10.028.