Colonoscopies Take Lives

Did You Know…this popular cancer prevention technique kills more people than it saves?

Every year more than 14 million healthy Americans jeopardize their health by undergoing a routine medical screening.  These individuals justify the risk because they believe the screening is necessary, and because few medical professionals realize just how dangerous it can be.  The truth is, more deaths result annually from colonoscopies than from colon cancer itself; colonoscopies take lives.

In recent years, some doctors have begun to speak out against this dangerous procedure and advocate for newer, safer tests.  Read on to learn the safest, least invasive way to diagnose colon cancer. 

The Deadly Cost of Colonoscopies 

When it comes to colon cancer, the reigning logic among U.S. health practitioners for the last decade has been that some screening may be good, but more screening is better.  What this viewpoint fails to consider are any added costs—financial and otherwise—stemming from the procedure.  Sometimes, those costs can include a person’s life.

According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, approximately 70,000 people die each year as the result of colonoscopy-related complications.  That number is 22% higher than the death toll of colon cancer, and it does not include deferred complications.  For example, issues relating to colon prep and general anesthesia can cause…

  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Pneumonia
  • Kidney failure
  • Heart attack

One Thing a Colonoscopy Likely Won’t Find?  Cancer 

Even if you survive your colonoscopy, some clear-sighted doctors now acknowledge that the experience inherently involves a number of negatives: anxiety over the results of the screening, the discomfort and inconvenience of preparing for the screening, the dangers of sedation, and the loss of productivity leading up to and following the screening.

And, of course, once you finish a test, you immediately begin to anticipate the next one.  But more often than not, colonoscopies don’t reveal cancer.  Instead, they find small, low-risk adenomas and non-adenomatous polyps.  Protocol currently holds that all polyps should be removed, regardless of degree of risk.  This means patients are often put at greater risk of harmful complications, with little to no benefit.  For most of the population, undergoing a colonoscopy may mean subjecting yourself to extensive costs and risks and receiving minimal rewards.

At Last, Some Good News 

The good news is that there is a much better way.  A new, noninvasive test that the Mayo Clinic helped to develop can detect cancer-related DNA in a stool sample.  The test can be conducted at home, and doesn’t require the extensive, unpleasant preparations needed before undergoing a colonoscopy.  It also presents no risks or adverse effects.

Medicare covers the cost of the Cologuard test, but it’s unclear if private insurers will pick it up.  Proponents hope people who would otherwise avoid screening will use this option.  Some in the medical establishment point out that colonoscopies and other, older methods are backed by tests showing they save lives.  But as you now know, colonoscopies take lives as well.