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Is a Colonoscopy Worth the Risk?

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

is colonoscopy worth the risk

Story at-a-glance -

  • Based on the evidence, an international team of experts is recommending routine colonoscopies only if you have a 3% potential of developing a growth in the next 15 years. If it is less, then the pitfalls associated with the procedure are not worth the risks
  • One study found a 17% risk of a missed cancer diagnosis with a colonoscopy. Other risks include perforation of the colon, which is raised when you have anesthesia with the procedure, gut microbial imbalance from preparation for the procedure, equipment contamination from improper sterilization between patients and death from complications
  • David Lewis, Ph.D., states that up to 80% of hospitals sterilize their endoscopes with glutaraldehyde (Cidex), which exacerbates the issue by preserving human tissue in the endoscope picked up during the procedure. The best method of sterilizing the equipment to date is peracetic acid, which will dissolve protein tissue and clear the endoscope
  • You may significantly reduce your risk of colorectal cancer by making lifestyle changes, including reducing or eliminating alcohol and smoking, maintaining a normal weight, eating a high fiber diet and exercising consistently

Knowing your potential risk for developing cancer can help you weigh the risks against the benefits of different tests for your situation. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 15.5 million people in the U.S. have a history of cancer. At least 1.7 million new cases will be diagnosed in 2019, which does not include a diagnosis of carcinoma in situ (noninvasive cancer).

The society estimates 606,880 people will die in 2019, which is 1,660 deaths every day. The four most common types include lung, breast, prostate and colorectal cancer. One of the screening tests commonly prescribed to rule out colorectal cancer is a colonoscopy.


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