It’s the exam that’s made colon cancer one of the most preventable cancers yet. Most people don’t remember colonoscopy when it’s done, but for those age 50 and over it can be life-saving.
Digestive health specialists are taking action to make the process easier – from simpler instructions on prepping for a colonoscopy to medical advances that patients never see.
One switch: using carbon dioxide during the exam. Rather than air, University of Michigan gastroenterologists use carbon dioxide to inflate the colon to help get a better look at its lining.
Resulting in less gas and cramping later — it’s a small change that can make a big impact when patients are ready to go home.
Why colonoscopy is crucial
Getting a colorectal cancer screening test could save your life. Here’s how:
- Colorectal cancer usually starts from polyps in the colon or rectum. A polyp is a growth that shouldn’t be there.
- Over time, some polyps can turn into cancer.
- Screening tests can find polyps, so they can be removed before they turn into cancer.
- Screening tests also can find colorectal cancer early. When it is found early, the chance of being cured is good.
Colorectal cancer, sometimes called colon cancer, occurs in men and women and the risk increases with age. If everyone age 50 and older had regular screening tests, — for most people that’s every 10 years — at least 60 percent of deaths from this cancer can be avoided, according to CDC’s National Colorectal Cancer Action Campaign Screen for Life.
More comfortable colonoscopy
The CO2 delivery systems used at the University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers help make colonoscopy more comfortable than ones in the past.
In the past air was used to inflate the colon to help with examination. That air caused cramping and abdominal pain that could last for several hours after the procedure. Excess air also lengthened the colon and made navigating it more challenging for the doctor.
CO2 is rapidly absorbed and expelled through the lungs, minimizing cramping. Studies have shown that post-colonoscopy pain is significantly less when CO2 is used.
“Anything we can do to make a colonoscopy more comfortable helps encourage patients to get their regular screening test,” says gastroenterologist Danielle Kim Turgeon, M.D.
Take the next steps:
- Read frequently asked questions about colonoscopy.
- If you’re over age 50, make an appointment for colon cancer screening.
- See how a colonoscopy is performed.
- Learn more about the Digestive and Liver Health services at the University of Michigan.
The University of Michigan Digestive and Liver Health services is one of the largest programs in the country, providing prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases involving the gastrointestinal tract and liver. Our 60-plus physicians are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of all diseases of the gastrointestinal system.