Getting a colonoscopy and the colon cancer awareness

Why Getting a Colonoscopy Matters and the Battle Against Colon Cancer 

Many people are afraid of getting a colonoscopy. Perhaps it's not the procedure but the dreaded "prep" beforehand. I know because I've been there, nervous and unsure of what to expect. Though I regularly perform colonoscopies, experiencing the procedure as a patient rather than a surgeon is a different experience.

Colon Cancer Awareness starts with getting a colonoscopy

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Colon cancer is a stealthy adversary, silently appearing and posing a significant threat to one's health. Colon Cancer Awareness Month is about the importance of early detection and prevention. The most notable of these early detection and preventative measures is the colonoscopy. In this blog, we'll look at what happens during a colonoscopy and explain its importance in combating colon cancer.  

Getting a Colonoscopy 

So, what is a colonoscopy? A colonoscopy is a procedure done under sedation, where a camera is put in through the bottom and goes through the entire colon. I perform them regularly, and they take about twenty minutes. During the colonoscopy, we examine the colon and look for any growths or abnormalities called polyps. If there are any small polyps, we remove them and have them tested. 

A colonoscopy is a way of screening to prevent colon cancer. Prior guidelines recommended beginning this screening at age 50, but the new recommendation is to start screening at age 45. If you have a family history of colon cancer, experts recommend starting screening earlier—at age 40 or 10 years before the age at which your family member was diagnosed with colon cancer.

Most people don't remember the colonoscopy. You cannot drive or work with heavy equipment on the day of your procedure. You will also need a ride to and from where you're getting the procedure done. Aside from that, there are no other restrictions. 

The procedure involves minimal risks. Removing polyps carries a slight risk of bleeding. In extremely rare cases, the procedure may perforate the colon. Should that occur, it may require surgery. I estimate that this risk occurs less than 1% of the time.

As a surgeon, I know the benefits of getting a colonoscopy, but that didn't make me any less anxious before my first one. I shared that experience in my blog; Even Surgeons Have to Get Their Colonoscopies | Dr. Cindy Geocaris (

Getting a colonoscopy

The Dreaded Prep

Everybody fears getting a colonoscopy, but they're not as scary as they appear. The worst of it really is drinking the prep, but it has become much more tolerable over time. The day before, you’ll follow a clear liquid diet and begin drinking the prep solution, which is usually a mix of Miralax and Gatorade. You shouldn't use red or orange Gatorade because it will discolor the colon during the exam. Mix the Gatorade with the Miralax and drink away. The prep flushes out your colon so we can adequately see everything. 

Many people don't follow these instructions, possibly resulting in a less thorough exam and impairing the ability to see any abnormalities. This could lead to missing important findings during your exam. Also, in cases where instructions are not followed, you may be required to come back and do it again. Therefore, it is crucial to follow the prep directions so that we can see everything we need to. 

Other Screening Options

There are a couple of other ways of screening for colon cancer. One of them is the Cologuard test, where you turn in a stool sample, and they do genetic testing to see if you're at a higher risk for colon cancer. If you have a positive test result, your doctor will recommend getting a colonoscopy. 

The other is a CT colonoscopy, which involves putting contrast dye into your rectum, similar to a large enema, followed by a CT scan. Even if the scan detects abnormalities, it's still recommended to undergo a traditional colonoscopy.

Understanding Colon Cancer

Colorectal cancer, or colon cancer for short, is one of the most common types of cancer in the United States in both women and men. It is in the large intestine (colon) or the rectum (end of the colon) where the growth of polyps sometimes forms. These growths, if removed early, can prevent the development of colon cancer. 

The risk for colon cancer increases with age and if you have a family history of the disease.

Some of the symptoms of colon cancer may include:  

Symptoms of colon cancer

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please get in touch with your doctor. 

Fighting the Battle

Colon cancer is preventable. Getting a colonoscopy is instrumental in detecting and removing precancerous polyps. I encourage everyone to get their yearly colonoscopy starting at age 45 or earlier if they have a family history. You can make the appointment by calling your family doctor for a referral, or if you know a doctor who does colonoscopies, you can contact their office to schedule it. As I said earlier, in my practice, I do colonoscopies regularly. Regular colonoscopies are essential in early detection and saving lives. In providing you care beyond the visit, I want to show you that getting a colonoscopy isn't anything to be afraid of, and the benefits far outweigh the risks.  


Colorectal (Colon) Cancer | CDC

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month | The AACR

Leave a Comment: