Exploring colonoscopy myths and the importance of testing

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Tuesday, July 14, 2020
Moves in Medicine: Colonoscopy myths and why testing is important
From concerns about discomfort to embarrassment to misconceptions about colon cancer and women, a Temple Health gastroenterologist explains why not to delay this life-saving test.

NORTH PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Too many people have put off routine health care during the pandemic. And that includes colon cancer screening.

Some myths about colonoscopies are keeping people from a life-saving test that shouldn't be postponed.

Gastroenterologist Benjamin Krevsky of Temple Health has heard all the myths and excuses for not getting a colonoscopy.

"It's not necessary if I don't have any symptoms. Women don't need colonoscopies, or colon cancer is a white man's disease. So if I'm not a white man, I don't need to have that done. Colonoscopy's expensive. My colon might get perforated. I'm too embarrassed to have it done," says Dr. Krevsky.

Right now, patients also worry about catching COVID-19.

Dr. Krevksy says that's nearly impossible at Temple because all COVID-19 patients are in a separate building.

He says the truth is women get colon cancer almost as much as men.

And Black Americans actually have a higher rate of colon cancer - 20 percent higher than white Americans.

So they need screenings starting at age 45, not 50, as for other races.

For those worried about pain or discomfort.

"You're going to be sedated. So you're not going to feel anything, you're not going to see us doing anything," says Dr. Krevsky.

As for the cost, the Affordable Care Act broke down that barrier.

"It's covered by Medicare. It's covered by most commercial insurance by law, if you're the right age," he notes.

Although there are other screening tests for colon cancer, none prevents cancer like a colonoscopy.

"We find a polyp. It's not cancer yet, but it's going to be cancer and we remove it - done, cancer cured before it even happened," he explains.

For people wary of the preparation, Dr. Krevsky says there are easier-to-use methods, including prep drinks with better flavors.

And he has a clever tip for getting through a gallon of prep drink.

If you're watching TV, have a glass every time the commercials come on.