So, your doctor says it’s time for a precautionary colonoscopy. At this point your eyebrows raise and you say to yourself, “oh my”. While this procedure is considered “routine”, it is also considered very uncomfortable and, in some cases, dangerous. Colonoscopy is a medical procedure that explores the colon for polyps (which may be cancerous or not). While generally considered safe, this procedure (as most medical procedures) have risk factors which, for colonoscopy’s include heavy rectal bleeding, additional surgery to repair torn tissues and in extreme cases even linked to death.
So why is your doctor recommending this? It’s because colon and/or rectal cancer kills more than 50,000 people in the US per year, according to the National Cancer Institute. However, it is generally a slow growing cancer that with early detection can be treated successfully.
Clearly early detection is important, especially if you have a family history of colorectal cancer or have a personal history of obesity, poor diet, IBS, type 2 diabetes, are African American, etc.
But, the procedure can have serious side effects.
Konstantin Monastyrky, in his book Fiber Menace, states
“the odds of being killed or injured by the side effects of colonoscopy may exceed your odds of getting colorectal cancer in the first place.”
In fact, colonoscopy most often fails to determine colorectal cancer and may cause the very cancer it is supposed to protect.
However, there are alternatives to the invasiveness of colonoscopy such as:
Recently the FDA approved a new, non-invasive colon cancer screening test called Cologuard. It’s a simple stool test similar which detects blood in the stool and also detects DNA mutations, which may indicate cancer cells shed from the colon into the stool.
· Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT). The FDA approved screening test works by detecting blood in fecal matter. You can even do it from home by sending a fecal sample to a lab. It is also a cost-effective test costing as little as $20.
· Fecal Occult Blood Tests (FBOT). This is a similar test you can do at home. It involves testing the fecal matter over a three-day period. This test along with FIT tests are recommended annually
· Stool DNA Test: More costly (about $600) this fecal test uses advanced DNA technology to detect altered DNA (or cancerous cells) shed by the lining of the colon.
Since Colon Cancer is an issue for many, it is worth noting that colorectal cancer is avoidable for many people not predisposed to the disease. The best ways you can avoid having colorectal cancer is:
· Eat a diet rich in fresh, organic fruits and vegetables
· Eat a naturally high fiber diet
· Reduce red meat, processed meat, vegetable oils, sugar, refined flour and artificial sweeteners.
· Limit alcohol consumption
· Eat a diet rich in antioxidants such as berries, carrots, peppers, broccoli, cabbage, etc.
· Regular exercise
· Don’t smoke
By following the above recommendations (which are advisable for many health-related reasons) you should greatly reduce your risk of colorectal cancers and the need for colonoscopy. Make sure to ask your doctor about non-invasive alternatives to colonoscopy if you are low risk.