A colonoscopy is a crucial tool in the fight against colorectal cancer, providing a means to both screen and prevent colon cancer-related deaths. While the procedure, carried out by a colorectal surgeon, has become a routine part of healthcare for many, concerns about its safety are not uncommon. Here, a leading colorectal surgeon in Melbourne will answer the question what is a colonoscopy, as well as explore the safety of colonoscopies, discussing what they entail, potential risks, and the importance of the procedure in preventing colorectal cancer.
What is a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a medical procedure wherein a doctor employs a thin, flexible tube with a tiny video camera at the tip to examine the interior of the colon and rectum. This procedure is a vital tool for identifying abnormalities and removing polyps—growths that could potentially become cancerous. Typically performed with the patient under sedation, colonoscopies are recommended at least every ten years, with variations based on individual patient needs.
On average, the chances of developing colorectal cancer are one in 23 for men and one in 25 for women. The efficacy of colonoscopies in reducing colorectal cancer occurrence by 40% and mortality by about 60% underscores their significance in preventive healthcare.
The Benefits Outweigh the Risks
While all medical procedures carry some level of risk, the benefits of colonoscopies far outweigh the associated risks, particularly for individuals between the ages of 45 to 75. The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy estimates that only three in 1,000 colonoscopies result in serious complications. Even in instances where complications arise, they are exceedingly rare and rarely life-threatening, with medical professionals well-equipped to manage and treat them.
Risks and Serious Complications
A study conducted in 2010 found that death resulting from colonoscopy-specific complications occurred in only 0.0066% of procedures. This risk is nearly identical to the chance of being struck by lightning (0.0065%)!
While death from complications is exceptionally rare, there are more common complications that may cause temporary discomfort or require additional medical care. These include bleeding, infection, reactions to anaesthesia, and the rare Post-Polypectomy Electrocoagulation Syndrome.
Patients over the age of 75 face a slightly higher risk of complications due to potential underlying health issues. Adequate preparation and communication with your colorectal surgeon in Melbourne is crucial for this demographic, with considerations for the procedure’s potential impact on hydration and electrolyte balance.
The Lifesaving Importance of Colonoscopies
In conclusion, the data emphasises that the risk associated with a doctor-ordered colonoscopy is significantly lower than the potential consequences of delaying or skipping the procedure. The chance of mortality from a colonoscopy is comparable to the risk of being struck by lightning, while colorectal cancer remains a substantial threat.
Safety First – Speak to Your Colorectal Surgeon in Melbourne
While acknowledging the rare complications associated with colonoscopies, it is important to view them in the context of the immense benefits in preventing and detecting colorectal cancer early. For patients, particularly those over 75, open communication with healthcare providers regarding potential risks and benefits is essential in ensuring a safe and effective screening process.
Ultimately, the evidence supports the notion that the safety of colonoscopies is well-established, contributing significantly to long-term health and a reduced risk of colorectal cancer-related mortality. If you have any questions, from what is a colonoscopy to what are the risks and benefits, it’s best to talk to your colorectal surgeon in Melbourne, as they can make sure it is as safe as possible for your specific case.