Overcoming anxiety about the colonoscopy

Learning the facts can reduce your fear factor of this important cancer detection tool

colonoscopy anxietyFor many, the thought of having a colonoscopy can cause dismay and distress. I’ve known people who have procrastinated having a colonoscopy for years because of the fear and anxiety surrounding this procedure. The following are some concerns and myths, along with the facts about this important screening test.

Concern: I’m afraid I will be awake or in pain for this procedure.

FACT: The vast majority of patients are adequately sedated for this procedure and experience no pain or memory of the procedure. Something called conscious sedation is given. These medicines are given through an intravenous injection and they relax you and block pain. It’s not general anesthesia; therefore, you recover quickly from its effects.

Concern: I hear the prep is the worst part of having a colonoscopy.

FACT: The bowel preps have improved and there are several options to choose from. They don’t require you to drink the same amount of fluid as you once did, and some can be taken in split doses. There is even a University of Michigan Health System app for your mobile device to help you with the prep. It provides information and timed alerts. There are also online videos that provide step-by-step instructions.

Myth: My risk isn’t that high for colon cancer.

FACT: The lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is 1 in 22. It’s one of the most common types of cancers diagnosed in the United States. A colonoscopy can save your life. It’s the most reliable way to prevent and detect colon cancer. It helps prevent cancer by removing polyps that can develop into cancer. One out of four people who undergo a colonoscopy have a polyp.

Myth:   I don’t have any symptoms, and I feel fine. Wouldn’t I know if there was something wrong?

FACT:   In the earliest stages of colon cancer there are typically no symptoms. Usually the cancer is more advanced once a patient experiences symptoms.

Concern: What if I really don’t want to have a colonoscopy – is there something else that can be done?

FACT: Although a colonoscopy is the most effective screening tool, there are other screening tests available. These tests include: sigmoidoscopy, Cologuard, and the fecal occult blood test.

Take the next step:

  • Learn from this video how a colonoscopy is performed at UMHS.
  • Watch this video provided by the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.
  • Find important information about colon and rectal cancer from this UMHS patient guide (PDF).
  • Still have questions? Call the nurses at the University of Michigan Cancer AnswerLine™. They can help patients or their loved ones find a clinical trial or provide insights into the newest and latest cancer treatments. Feel free to call at 1-800-865-1125 or send an e-mail.

KimZThe Cancer AnswerLine™ nurses are experienced in oncology care, including helping patients and their families who have questions about cancer. These registered oncology nurses are available by calling 800-865-1125 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Your call is always free and confidential.



Cancer-center-informal-vertical-sig-150x150The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan according to U.S. News & World Report. Our multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.