Should I Have a Colonoscopy?
This is a question I am asked frequently. A colonoscopy can prove beneficial but it has potential serious risks. Each person should weigh for themselves the benefits verses the risks. Sometimes peace of mind can be a big factor in choosing to have a colonoscopy.
During the course of a colonoscopy a gastroenterologist views the colon with an inserted endoscope that has a viewing end for the doctor to be able to see the inside of the colon. The doctor is able to take pictures during the procedure. If there are polyps in the colon typically they are removed and are sent off to biopsy. The colonoscopy than becomes more than a diagnostic tool but actually has the ability to remove a possible future problem. There are two types of polyps, adenomos and hyperplastic. Adenomos polyps have the potential to turn into cancer which would take many years whereas hyperplastic polyps do not.
The possible risks associated with a colonoscopy include perforation of the intestinal wall. This is when the endoscope punctures the wall with a hole. Depending on the size of the hole, the person’s life can be in serious jeopardy. The risk of perforation is between 5 to 7 in 1,000 colonoscopies. I know personally several people that this has happened to, so it is not a procedure to take lightly. Other risks include severe dehydration from the prep required before a colonoscopy, inflammation of the bowels and even bowel obstruction.
I have been asked many times about the pictures taken during a colonoscopy. They usually look as though the colon is very clean. Are those preps that good? What’s the real story? Well, the endoscope also has the ability to use water to flush stool out as well as to clean the wall of an area of the colon so that the doctor can get a better look and also take a picture. This is why the pictures appear to show a clean colon. Years ago, before I knew about this water device, I have to say, I too was quite puzzled. You see, many of my clients have come to me the day before their scheduled colonoscopy, usually later in the afternoon, and I will give them a thorough colonic making sure I address all of the colon to their cecum. They usually take just a small portion of the prep in the evening for the colonoscopy in the event that there may be waste in their small intestine that needs to move down and out before the procedure the next day. Their evening is uneventful and their sleep is uninterrupted. They do not have the repeated trips to the bathroom with diarrhea, so common with taking the whole prep and not having a colonic. Sometimes they choose to tell their doctors but often they do not. The interesting thing is that time and again the doctors have told these people after their colonoscopy that their colons were the cleanest colon that they have seen in a long time. One gastroenterologist even asked one of my clients if she had ever had a colonic. After she said yes, he said that he could tell because her colon looked so healthy but he added that he wasn’t supposed to say positive things about colonics. It is interesting to note however that Mayo Clinic’s website suggests a colonic prior to a colonoscopy. The following is a video from a news broadcast in which two G.I. doctors are supporting the benefit of having a colonic prior to a colonoscopy. It is very informative.
So how clean is the colon after a person takes those preps? Well, I have found the real answer from two of my clients that are nurses who have assisted gastroenterologists during colonoscopies. Both of them have told me that the colon is still full of considerable amounts of waste and that the cecum, the last section of the colon from the perspective of the rectum, is totally full of stool in most people! This is not good since it prevents a good view of this area. Recently I had an experience that shows the value of having a totally clean colon for a colonoscopy. A man of 73 years named Joe came to me the day before a colonoscopy for a colonic. His wife is a strong believer in colon therapy. The man had seen me once several years ago when he was very constipated after having a hip replacement surgery. Joe was thrilled with the results then so he felt it was a good idea to see me before the colonoscopy. As I was working on him and massaging his abdomen I noticed an irregularity on the right side of his colon near the cecum. After having done as many colonics as I have, my hands have a mind of their own allowing me to notice things that don’t appear right. I asked Joe if he was tender in that area when I exerted a little pressure. He said yes. The next day his wife called me and told me that all had gone very well except that the doctor was concerned about an area of the colon just above the cecum and had taken a biopsy. Several days later the results came back positive for cancer. Joe had to have surgery to remove that section of the colon. Gratefully his prognosis is excellent.
If a person decides to have a colonoscopy I strongly suggest that they get a copy of the report. It is amazing how often a patient is not told all of the information or even misinformation. Earlier this year a 49 year old man named Cliff came to me for abdominal pain after he saw numerous doctors and had many tests including a colonoscopy. His medical expenses exceeded $26,000 yet he received no answers as to what was wrong with him. As I sat down with him going over his history he was extremely frustrated and overwhelmed. He had with him the results of his tests although he had never looked at them himself. He said that the GI doctor that did the colonoscopy told him that his colon looked like that of a young person. Upon seeing the report of the colonoscopy I was amazed to see that it stated that Cliff’s colon had diverticulosis and a predominant amount of unhealthy bacteria lining his colon wall. This is NOT a healthy colon. Far from it! Why wasn’t Cliff told this? I know from experience that people are typically told that their colon is ‘all clear’ after their colonoscopy. The doctor doesn’t mean clear of waste as many people think. That is not the reason for the colonoscopy. The doctor means clear of polyps, diverticulosis, tumors, and colitis. Yet Cliff’s doctor told him incorrectly that his colon looked like a that of a young person. If Cliff was told the truth many unnecessary tests and doctor visits could have been avoided. I am happy to report that I was able to help Cliff regain his health and alleviate his pain. Rebalancing the bacterial lining of the colon is the expected result of colon therapy along with taking refrigerated probiotics. Diverticulosis is helped also by cleaning the colon of debris and teaching the client the importance of eating a fiber rich diet to strengthen the colon muscle. This will help prevent more pockets in the colon, in other words diverticulosis, as well as aid in closing up the ones already present.
So the decision is up to you. Should you have a colonoscopy? I hope this blog gives you a well rounded synopsis of the pros and cons for doing so. Thank you for reading.