Hidden Dangers of Common Medical Test

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If you’ve been to see a doctor lately, chances are, you’ve been pushed to submit to a colonoscopy - a medical imaging procedure of your large intestine. Over 15 million colonoscopies are performed in the U.S. each year. And those who are in the profession are pushing for even more.

The experts claim that colonoscopies are safe and that they are necessary to protect against cancer growth. But are they right? Should you submit to routine colonoscopies? What are the hidden dangers that the doctors aren’t telling you? Read on to learn how to make the right decisions to stay safe.

The Rise of Colonoscopies

Like many things, when it comes to colon cancer, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. A healthy diet and lifestyle can go a long way to reduce your risk of colon cancer. However, as men age, their risk naturally increases, and diet and lifestyle aren’t the only factors. Genetics also play an important role.

Because we cannot control all the factors involved in the development of colon cancer, many men choose to get screened for pre-cancerous lesions or cancerous growth. It is clear that early detection does dramatically increase the survival rate.

Traditionally, stool tests and sigmoidoscopies are the preferred screening techniques. Stool tests are complete non-invasive and extremely low risk. The only detect cancerous growths, however, and not pre-cancerous lesions. Sigmoidoscopies, on the other hand, are imaging tests that also have an extremely good safety records and can detect pre-cancerous lesions.

Colonoscopies are much more expensive and dangerous than stool tests or sigmoidoscopies. But since the turn of the century, they have become increasingly more common. In fact, doctors are now pushing for more colonoscopies. Why? Because Medicare now covers the cost for average risk individuals and insurance companies have followed suit. Colonoscopies produce far more profit for providers than other screening procedures.

Studies show that colonoscopies are no better or perhaps even less effective than sigmoidoscopies. And in Europe, where procedures are done based on a cost/benefit analysis, colonoscopies are performed far less often than in the United States. For example, in the U.K. per capita colonoscopy rates are less than 1 percent. In the United States it is 5 percent and rising.

The Procedure

Colonoscopies use a flexible fiberoptic camera to view the entire colon. The colon, as you may know, has several right angles. So to be able to view the entire colon, the camera is both flexible and long.

Sorry to be a little graphic here, guys, but the colon contains a lot of fecal matter. With a sigmoidoscopy, which only looks at the very end of the colon, a simple enema an hour prior to the procedure is all that is necessary to get a clear image. But with a colonoscopy, the whole colon has to be cleaned out. How’s that done? With harsh laxatives that remove everything inside of the entire colon.

A sigmoidoscopy involves preparation only on the day of the procedure. You can eat breakfast on the same day. But with a colonoscopy, a day of preparation is necessary, during which time you are not allowed to eat solid food. Instead, you must take the laxatives.

The procedure itself is, understandably, uncomfortable, and so it is most commonly done under anesthesia. During that time, the entire length of the camera is inserted and then removed. Afterward there is normally a recovery period of a day or two. But, as we’ll see, not everyone is so lucky.

The Risks

Colonoscopy is not a low risk procedure, but many doctors are quick to push it and fail to disclose the risks. Before you submit to a colonoscopy, you should know the risks.

To begin with, the harsh laxatives disturb the natural balance of the digestive system. Although they don’t necessarily kill off all the beneficial bacteria, they can eliminate many of them. The result can be ongoing digestive discomfort and diarrhea.

A number of studies have shown that the imaging devices inserted into the colon are infected with dangerous bacteria and viruses as much as 20 percent of the time. Major healthcare organizations have sent out notifications to tens of thousands of patients notifying them of the possibility of having been infected with hepatitis or HIV!

The imbalance to the digestive bacteria coupled with the imperfect sterilization of the imaging devices increase the risk not only of infections like hepatitis or HIV, but also overgrowth with things like c. difficile.

Anesthesia risk increases with age, and is one of the largest risks of a colonoscopy. Anesthesia complications can range from mild to severe to death.

And finally, 1 in 1000 colonoscopies results in a perforation. In other words, 1 in 1000 men who get a colonoscopy have their colon torn, which results in serious, life-threatening infection. The survival rate of perforation is low, and those that do survive generally have to have their large intestines removed.

Better Options

If your doctor pressures you to submit to a colonoscopy, ask him or her to give you clear evidence for why a colonoscopy is more appropriate than a sigmoidoscopy. Studies show that sigmoidoscopies are just as effective as colonoscopies, but with much lower risk. They also are less invasive, less expensive, and require far less preparation.

Also, be cautious about submitting to a virtual colonoscopy, which is uses x-rays. Radiation exposure significantly increases cancer risk.

Remember that it’s your body and your health. You have the right to make the decisions.

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