Texas Oncology Cancer Prevention Series: Colonoscopy: It’s Worth It!

Texas Oncology Stock

By Dr. Dhatri Kodali

We often hear that American medicine is more focused on treatment rather than prevention. That may be a fair criticism at times but one important factor in prevention is patient participation. This month’s article discusses very effective cancer prevention and screening tool that, unfortunately, is one of the least utilized: colonoscopy. Starting at age 50, both men and women need to be screened for colorectal cancer. Dr. Dhatri Kodali describes the importance of this in this cancer education series.
              – Vivek S. Kavadi, M.D. 

There are several things on my “to do” list that I’m really good at putting off. They need to be done, but I don’t like disrupting my routine or taking time away from other activities to make them happen.

However, when it comes to cancer screenings, it’s worth a little disruption. It can give you peace of mind. Or if cancer is detected, the earlier we find it, the more treatment options we have.

A colonoscopy is a great example of something many would prefer not to do and often delay.

Colonoscopies get the worst rap of all the cancer screenings, and it’s not hard to see why. We generally don’t discuss it at the dinner table, and it might be a bit embarrassing. Between the prep and the procedure, you have to invest a bit of time. But at the end of the day, it is worth it.

Detecting cancer early through colonoscopy can be a lifesaver, which is the best reason to get one.

Typically, colorectal cancer doesn’t have symptoms in its earliest stages – when treatment is more likely to produce the best outcomes. Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly occurring type, accounting for about 8% of all cancer cases nationally. The American Cancer Society estimates 10,050 Texans will be diagnosed, and 3,470 people will die from the disease this year.

Colonoscopies are a great investment of your time. We spend a lot of time protecting our health by staying active and eating right, and it only makes sense to protect our health in this way, too. Unlike monthly self-exams, most people only need a colonoscopy once a decade, unless your doctor advises you otherwise. As an added bonus, a colonoscopy can be both a screening and prevention exam, since precancerous polyps can be removed during the procedure.

A colonoscopy simply isn’t as bad as its reputation. Yes, you have to prep, which is probably the worst part. Yes, you’ll definitely want to be home the afternoon before your procedure. However, I’ am confident that if you asked my patients, most would tell you even the prep wasn’t as bad as they had  heard; the procedure itself was a piece of cake – after all, you are asleep; and the peace of mind they have now made it all worthwhile.

A colonoscopy every 10 years, starting at age 50, is the gold standard of colon cancer screenings. If  you’re still reluctant to have a colonoscopy, please don’t give up on screenings altogether. There are other, less-invasive methods, but they need to be conducted more often, and may not be the best option for you. Talk to your doctor about which screening is most appropriate for you.

If you’re due for a colonoscopy, stop putting it on your “to-do” list and move it to your “done” list. You won’t regret the decision.

KodaliDr. Dhatri Kodali is a medical oncologist at Texas Oncology–Deke Slayton Cancer Center, 501 Medical Center Blvd., Webster, Texas; and Texas Oncology–Texas City, 1125 North Highway 3, Suite 150, Texas City, Texas.