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  1. Colonoscopy is painful.
  • Not true. Most patients say the most unpleasant aspect of colonoscopy is the bowel preparation, not the procedure itself. The majority of colonoscopies are performed under sedation.

2. Colonoscopy is embarrassing.

  • Not true. Great efforts are made by healthcare providers to limit unnecessary exposure. Air is used to distend the colon for better inspection. Passing gas during or after the procedure is common and may help limit cramps from abdominal distention. You are unlikely to have a bowel movement during the procedure as some fear.

3. Colonoscopy takes a long time to complete.

  • Not true. There are 3 main encounters during colonoscopy; pre-colonoscopy, colonoscopy, and post-colonoscopy. The procedure itself usually takes about 15-60 minutes.

4. Colonoscopy has a lot of complications.

  • Not true. Complications from colonoscopy are rare. The risk of perforation is less than 1 per 1,000 colonoscopies. Overall, the risk of serious complication is about 2.8 per 1,000 colonoscopies.

5. Colonoscopy cannot prevent colorectal cancer.

  • Not true. What separates colonoscopy from other tests is its ability to prevent colorectal cancer. This is achieved through the removal of pre-cancerous polyps during colonoscopy. Most of the other tests can only detect cancer.

6. Colonoscopy can only be performed in hospitals.

  • Not true. Colonoscopy can be performed in the office, an ambulatory surgery center or in the hospital.

7. Colonoscopy always requires sedation.

  • Not true. Colonoscopy can be safely performed without sedation.

8. Colonoscopy is usually performed by a surgeon.

  • Not true. Most of the colonoscopies are performed by gastroenterologists. Gastroenterologists are physicians who specialize in the management of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract.

9. Colonoscopy is only used to screen for colorectal cancer.

  • Not true. Colonoscopy can be used to detect and treat many diseases of the lower gastrointestinal tract including diseases of the terminal ileum, colon, and rectum. Other common reasons for colonoscopy include diarrhea, rectal bleeding, and abdominal pain.

10. Colonoscopy is needed every 5 years.

  • Not true. A well done colonoscopy with good bowel preparation should be repeated in 10 years in average-risk individuals. Individuals with personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps or those with inflammatory bowel disease often require shorter intervals.