Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, after lung cancer. If you have no history of smoking or exposure to industrial chemicals, then colorectal cancer may be your number one cancer risk. This is why you should consider a colonoscopy for early detection and treatment. Advances in the technique have made this screening much more tolerable than it was originally.
Sedation is now standard for optical colonoscopy in the United States. All I felt was the small needle stick for the intravenous line. The next thing I knew, my friend was there to take me home and the doctor was telling me all was OK, come back in 10 years. No problem!
It's the preparation that most people still object to. The colon has to be empty for the procedure to be successful. Over the years, researchers have developed gentler methods to accomplish this. You can start a low-fiber diet up to a week in advance, then shift to softer foods and then liquids. The laxatives then get you “cleaned out”. You probably need two days off from work: one to stay home and prepare, then another to recuperate from the sedation.
There are some options for both preparation and anesthesia. As in dentistry, some patients want more anesthesia and are willing to feel drowsy for the rest of the day; others are willing to tolerate some discomfort in order to recover faster.
There is also an option to get the screening done by X-ray instead of the more invasive endoscope. A research team in The Netherlands studied patient preferences for CT colonography (the X-ray version) with limited bowel preparation, versus optical colonoscopy with cathartic bowel preparation. All participants received both procedures. Overall, 69 percent preferred the CT method, and 22 percent preferred the conventional optical colonoscopy.
The participants who preferred the CT colonography said the main reason was the difference in preparation procedures. The researchers reported good results using milder laxatives along with contrast agents for the X-ray procedure.