Why You NEED to Get a Colonoscopy


By: Joseph Dougherty, General Surgeon


Did you know that for both men and women in North America, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer, and it is the second leading cause of cancer deaths?  Roughly one in 20 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer at some point in their lives. The good news is, with regular screening, this cancer is almost completely preventable. If you are age 50 or older, or have family members with a history of colon problems, you NEED to get a colonoscopy. It could save your life. 

Medical research has shown that people who get a colonoscopy have their risk of dying from colon cancer reduced by more than 50%.  In other words, if you get screened, you are half as likely to die from colon cancer as someone who doesn’t get a colonoscopy. Despite this benefit, research has also shown that four out of 10 people who should be screened fail to get this potentially life-saving exam. Screening is important for various types of cancer, but especially colorectal cancer. During the screening, doctors can find and remove early polyps long before they become cancerous tumors. In fact, a small polyp could take 5-10 years to turn cancerous. This is what makes colorectal cancer extremely preventable and, therefore, preventive screening extremely effective and important.

For most of us, the idea of having someone look at our backside is pretty embarrassing and undesirable, but it doesn’t need to be. Calais Regional Hospital has a professional team that has performed thousands of colonoscopies. The entire process is dignified and there is no need for embarrassment. This dedicated team of specialists makes your experience smooth and pain free, and you are back to your normal routine the following day.  The preparation process is the most time consuming and annoying part, but you complete that in the comfort of your own home; during the procedure itself you are sedated, so you won’t feel a thing. Essentially, you get to take a 30 minute nap.  It doesn’t take long to get the procedure done, and it could literally save your life. Most people go through the colonoscopy experience with no abnormal findings and are able to put their mind at ease for a decade before needing to repeat the screening.  But if polyps or other problems are found, they can be removed immediately while you sleep, and that stops them from turning into something much bigger and worse over time. If removed before they mutate into a cancer, the threat is eliminated. Even if the polyp proves to have cancerous cells inside, the sooner it is removed, the better your chances for complete recovery and a normal life.    

Colon cancer is a major threat to people in the Western world. As with many other serious health conditions, people appear to be at a greater risk of developing colorectal cancer if they are obese, consume too much alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or don't exercise regularly.  So do your best to stay healthy, and one of the primary steps in that process is to get the recommended screenings, including colonoscopy. It could save your life.

 Dr. Joseph Dougherty is a General Surgeon at CRMS Surgical Services.  He provides a wide range of services including, but not limited to, lesion removal, upper and lower scopes, laparoscopic procedures, abdominal surgeries, oncology resections and surgery of the gall bladder, hernia, breast and bowel. He can be reached at 454-8432 and is located at 15 Palmer Street in Calais.