Do I really need a colonoscopy? And why do I have to drink that stuff beforehand?

March 07, 2014

A colonoscopy is the best way to find out whether cancer lurks, says Dr. Kenneth Chang, chief of gastroenterology for UCI Health and executive director of the H.H. Chao Comprehensive Digestive Disease Center.

“If we can find and remove a polyp early, it could lower your risk of full-blown colon cancer by 60 to 90 percent, and reduces your risk of dying from colon cancer by 53 percent,” says Chang.  It might take five to ten years for a polyp to turn into cancer, so we have a good lead time to catch it if you follow the screening guidelines.

Still not convinced?

In 2012, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine offered the most direct evidence yet of the benefits of regular screening.

“This study validates what we have believed for the past two decades – that colonoscopy and removal of polyps prevents cancer and saves lives,” says Dr. Michael Stamos, chairman of UCI Health Department of Surgery and president of the American Society of Colon & Rectal Surgeons. “Hopefully this will spur more people to get screened.”

And yes, it’s still necessary to drink that fluid the day before your colonoscopy, Chang says. Don’t let the fear or distaste dissuade you from scheduling a colonoscopy. The liquid solutions offered these days are far less offensive than in years past and a properly cleansing your colon can help ensure a more accurate diagnosis so you don’t have to repeat the experience.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and UCI Health wants to improve your chances of living a long and healthy life – know your risks and get checked out. Beat colorectal cancer before it beats you.