The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that up to 60 percent of colon cancer deaths could be prevented if everyone over the age of 50 got screened regularly. Unfortunately, not everyone who is eligible for a colonoscopy gets one. Cost, embarrassment, and fear of the unknown are just a few factors that may influence someone’s decision against getting a colonoscopy, and many of these fears are based on false information. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest myths surrounding colonoscopies and set the record straight once and for all.
Colonoscopies are expensive
Under the Affordable Care Act, screening colonoscopies and related anesthesia costs are now mostly or fully covered by Medicare and many private insurers. This does not apply to grandfathered plans which were already in place before the Affordable Care Act, but you may still have coverage under state laws. If you have questions about your out-of-pocket expenses for a colonoscopy, call your insurance representative and ask for a price quote. It could be far less than you expected!
Other screenings are just as effective
The colonoscopy is the most comprehensive exam that can detect and treat colon cancer. Other screenings like virtual colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, fecal occult blood test, and double contrast barium enema may be less invasive or less expensive, but they are not as thorough. A positive or inconclusive result from these tests may require you to follow up with a colonoscopy, so why not save yourself the trouble and schedule a colonoscopy in the first place?
You only need a colonoscopy if you have symptoms
Colon cancer rarely presents symptoms in its early stages when it is most treatable. Current screening guidelines recommend that average risk individuals begin routine colonoscopies at age 50, or age 45 if they are African American. Individuals with a family history of colon cancer or polyps should begin screening 10 years before the youngest case within the family.
Colonoscopies are uncomfortable
Most patients agree that the worst part of a colonoscopy is the bowel preparation the night before, but there are plenty of tips available online to help you get through it. You will be under anesthesia during your colonoscopy, allowing you to rest comfortably throughout the entire procedure.
If fear and apprehension are keeping you from scheduling your colonoscopy, discuss these concerns with your doctor. He or she would be happy to answer any questions you may have and offer encouragement to help you make the right decision. Armed with a strong support system and the right information, you will have nothing to fear on examination day!