SPONSORED: Buddy Check 13: Feeling comfortable about colon screenings

Published: Dec. 13, 2018 at 12:49 PM CST
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Most people wonder do I really have to take this test? But for a procedure that only takes about 20 to 30 minutes, Dr. Ron Waits says, “It’s literally safer than driving down Clairemont Avenue to have the procedure done.”

For 26 years, Dr. Waits, a general surgeon with Marshfield Clinic Health System, has been performing colonoscopies.

“We do hundreds of these procedures every year.”

Even still, it's something he said too many people are putting off.

“In general, they recommend to start getting screened age 45 or 50,” Dr. Waits said. “Unfortunately, we're getting only about half of the folks in the U.S. that should have a colonoscopy.”

While it can be a daunting thought, it’s why doctors like Waits and Jessica Lemke, are pushing the conversation.

Dr. Lemke said she has this talk 5 to 10 times a day with patients; because chances are 1 in 22 people will get colon cancer in their lifetime.

“A lot of people are under the misbelief that ‘no one in my family had it, I’m fine,’ but that’s actually not true,” Dr. Lemke said. “You don't have to have a family history of colon cancer to get colon cancer.”

But what's scaring people most? The colonoscope.

“The colonoscope, in addition to being very flexible and having a number of functions, has an HD camera on the end of it, so we can watch it on a TV screen and see in the colon,” said Dr. Waits.

Using the camera, surgeons are looking for anything out of the ordinary, like a polyp.

“That’s really what we're after is to find these small growths and remove them before they turn into a cancer or at very least find them when they’re at the early cancer and very treatable,” he said.

Another thing to help you feel more comfortable, you have no feeling inside your colon!

“Your colon actually has no sensation, so we can snip, cauterize, etcetera, and there’s no pain associated with that,” Dr. Waits added.

Doctors say colonoscopies are the gold standard for screenings.

“Don’t listen to the horror stories from other patients, it really isn’t that bad of a thing and if it’s normal, then you don't have to do it for another ten years,” Dr. Lemke said.

Dr. Lemke adds, there are other options.

“For people who are really uncomfortable, if they’re appropriate given their family’s history and own, then we can talk about stool-based testing. There are two forms, one looks for blood in the stool and the other looks for DNA related to colon cancer,” she said.

The stool-based tests are not as thorough which means, you'll have to go back a lot sooner than you would if you had a colonoscopy.

“They’re 3 years and the other is 1 year,” she said.

Again, doctors say to ignore the horror stories; prep for a colonoscopy and the procedure itself are not as bad as you think it is. If you do have questions, don't be afraid to ask your doctor. The more you talk about it, the more comfortable it'll make you feel.

This segment is sponsored by Marshfield Clinic Health System.