Have you been putting off getting a colorectal cancer screening because the very thought fills you with dread and terror? You are not alone! I witness so much fear around this procedure. Guess what? The anxiety is unnecessary. The process, however, can save your life. So I’m sharing the three biggest common fears that most people have about getting a colon cancer screening and why they shouldn’t prevent you from making that appointment.
But first, I’m dropping a little knowledge about the seriousness of colorectal cancer and why you should lower your pants to this life-saving procedure.
- Colorectal cancer (1) deaths are the #3 killer in the United States.
- Approximately 140,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with colorectal cancer every year. Meanwhile, over 50,000 people die annually.
- Your risk of getting colon cancer is about 1 in 20. Certain factors further increase your risk (age, ethnicity, lifestyle, family history, etc.).
- No symptoms don’t mean any colon cancer. Most people don’t experience any symptoms until it’s too late. (See why that colonoscopy is crucial?)
- There is a feeling that an absence of a family history of colon cancer implies that you can forgo a colonoscopy.
- It is recommended to get a colonoscopy if you’re 40 years old or older, have a family history of colorectal cancer (2), precancerous polyp or another form of cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, or altered bowel habits (4), blood in stool, or weight loss.
Now let’s put those concerns to rest.
1. It’s Going to Be Embarrassing!
This treatment has been put off for years by patients who don’t like having their backsides examined. They don’t want to feel exposed, judged, and embarrassed. I get that. But here is what you need to understand. During a colonoscopy, your doctor is not staring at your butt. Your doctor’s eyes are glued to the screen before him, displaying what’s happening within your body. They’re solely interested in finding out if you have any health problems. No one in that room is there to judge your body.
As a result, you do not have to worry about someone sneaking into your room with a high-tech zoom lens to picture your cellulite (or an old ugly tattoo from your college years). No one is paying attention to your backside, only your insides.
2. It’s Going to Be Painful!
If you’re due for your first colonoscopy, you might be having nightmares about your doctor chasing after you with a 400-foot spiked tube. No wonder you’re scared it’s going to hurt! I promise you, the anticipation is the worst part. This procedure is not painful. I even did it with no anesthesia!
And that nightmare-inducing tube? In reality, it’s called a colonoscope and is a thin, flexible, hollow tube with a tiny camera on its end. Preparation for the colonoscope procedure includes sedation, so you won’t feel a thing while it is placed into your colon. (Some patients may experience mild bloating post-procedure, but this is nothing more than trapped gas that will naturally make its way out.)
As for where it’s going? Probably not your first choice. But prevention is vital, and this procedure is the gold standard for colon cancer prevention.
3. I’m Afraid to Get the Results!
Some people, especially those who have put off getting a colonoscopy for years, are afraid of getting the wrong diagnosis. The fear of being diagnosed with colon cancer is enough to make them avoid the very procedure that can help prevent the illness in the first place. While this is a perfectly normal concern, I urge you to remember that preventative action is the best thing you can do to protect yourself!
And if there happened to be an issue? Catching it as quickly as possible is your best bet for a positive outcome. When colorectal cancer is detected early, the treatment options are much more favorable than those available in later stages. And let’s not forget the many lives saved every year because precancerous growths are spotted during a colonoscopy and removed before the illness takes over.
Getting Rid of Your Fears of Colonoscopies
If you’re still worried about your upcoming colonoscopy, here are a few tips that may help ease your fears:
- Consult your doctor: If you’re worried about the procedure, voice your concerns with your doctor beforehand. They can help you feel better about things by explaining the process in detail and answering any questions you may have.
- Relax: Stay as calm as possible before and during the procedure. Taking some deep breaths and focusing on positive thoughts can help you stay calm.
- Distract yourself: If you’re feeling anxious, try to distract yourself from the thoughts by focusing on something else. If you wish to read while you wait or listen to music throughout the process, bring a book or magazine.
- Think about the outcome: Remember that this procedure is being done for your good! It’s an essential step in keeping your body healthy and catching any problems early on.
Preparation Before Undergoing Colorectal Screening
A clear liquid diet is taken before a colonoscopy, and magnesium citrate is used to start bowel preparation the day before.
You will be asked to drink a gallon of liquid, which will help clean out your colon.
You must follow these instructions as best as possible because a soiled colon can make it difficult to get an accurate reading during the colonoscopy.
Feeling Better About Getting a Colonoscopy?
The vast majority of people can prevent colorectal cancer. This easy, painless procedure is the best way to do it. It saves lives. And it might even save yours.
Any power you have to increase your odds of living a cancer-free life is a gift that I hope you accept. Don’t let a little fear or embarrassment take that power away and increase your risk of a life-threatening diagnosis. I swear, it’s no big deal, and it will help you live a longer, healthier life.
Make healthy living a part of every day.
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- Speak up. Talk to your doctor and ask if having a colonoscopy is in your near future. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and be open (even if you’re a little embarrassed), and advocate for yourself.
- Calm down. Nervous about an upcoming colonoscopy? You don’t need to be, but calm your body and soul with some great relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises if you’re feeling on edge.
- Become your own Health Hero. Is colonoscopy needed? Step up, schedule the procedure and feel like a real hero knowing you conquered your fears and took action to protect your health and happiness!
- Colonoscopy, pain and fears: Is it an indissoluble trinomial? – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Colorectal Cancer Screening Stories | CDC
- Colonoscopy Fears: Why You Shouldn’t Listen To Your Gut Colonoscopy Fears: Why You Shouldn’t Listen To Your Gut (gialliance.com)
- Gaining Health Knowledge Outweighs Colonoscopy Fears (osteopathic.org)
- Taking the fear Out of Colonoscopies | Cancer Care | Healthy News Blog | Lee Health
- Fear as a Barrier to Asymptomatic Colonoscopy Screening in an Urban Minority Population with Health Insurance – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Fears of Having a Colonoscopy: Differences Between Veteran a… : Official journal of the American College of Gastroenterology | ACG (lww.com)
- A Gastroenterologist Answers Common Questions About Colonoscopies (nyp.org)