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Is a colonoscopy really worth all the hassle?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Let's not sugarcoat reality: Most people would rather go through a tax audit than have a colonoscopy. But there is also no doubt that this screening test saves lives -- lots of them. During a colonoscopy, a doctor inserts a flexible tube with a camera into the rectum (it is not a self-test, and even Dr. Oz and myself do not do this one on ourselves)  and looks for signs of colon or rectal cancer. That's enough to make most people squeamish, but preparing for the procedure isn't much fun either, since you need to fast and the colon clean out is really special.

Trust me, it's all worthwhile. A large, 20-year study found that colonoscopies cut the risk for dying of colon cancer by more than 50%. Yet about 40% of adults don't get screened on schedule, which usually means having a colonoscopy at least every 10 years after you turn 50. I had one when I hit the half-century mark and I'm sure glad I did. The doctor detected and removed a little nubbin on the lining of my colon called a polyp, which could have turned into a cancerous tumor.  A bit of hassle for peace of mind? I'll take that tradeoff any day.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.