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Stop Believing These Colonoscopy Myths Today

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There are many stories and myths about colonoscopies out there. But the truth is — colon cancer screening is easier that you think. A colonoscopy can even prevent cancer from occurring. We’ve busted the most common myths below and encourage you to take an active role in your health and get screened.


Tablet reading "colonoscopy"

Myth 1: If you don’t have any symptoms, you don’t need a colonoscopy.

The early stages of colon cancer rarely have symptoms. Once you see changes in bowel habit or blood in the stool, the cancer may be at an advanced stage. Early detection is the key to survival.

Elderly man and woman dancing.

Myth 2: Women are less likely to get colon cancer, so they don’t need screenings.

Men have only a slightly higher risk. Colon cancer can strike any gender, ethnicity or age.

Elderly Black man and woman hugging

Myth 3: Colon cancer is a white man’s disease.

African American men and women actually have higher rates of colorectal cancer that any other racial or ethnic group in the country.

Doctor speaking with elderly male patient.

Myth 4: A colonoscopy isn’t accurate.

A colonoscopy is by far, the most accurate method of diagnosing colorectal cancers. When done by experts, colon cancer is diagnosed nearly 100% of the time. Colonoscopy is the only method for accurately detecting polyps so they can be removed and it greatly reduces the chance of developing advanced-stage polyps.

Doctor reviewing paperwork with elderly female patient.

Myth 5: Colonoscopies are expensive.

As a cancer screening test, there is usually little or no cost for a colonoscopy if you have private insurance or Medicare. Verify coverage with your insurance provider before your procedure.

Adult couple taking a walk outside with two children and a dog.

Myth 6: A colonoscopy is too uncomfortable and painful.

Having a colonoscopy is easier than you think. The sedation eliminates discomfort, and most people don’t remember the 15- to 30-minute procedure. Most people return to normal activities the next day.

Woman drinking out of a glass.

Myth 7: It’s impossible to swallow all the prep drink.

There are many options for cleaning out the colon, including taking half the prep the night before and the other half the morning of the procedure. Ask your doctor about what’s best for you.

Patient speaking with her doctor.

Myth 8: My colon might get perforated during a colonoscopy.

Colonoscopies are extremely safe. The risk of perforation is less than 1 in 1,000. When performed by specially-trained professionals, the risk of bleeding during a colonoscopy is less than 1%.

Elderly couple hugging.

Myth 9: Colonoscopy results bring bad news.

Most colonoscopies have favorable results. Most polyps found during the procedure are not cancerous and can be removed during the colonoscopy.

Doctor pointing at educational illustration of a colon.

Myth 10: Colonoscopy is the only way to screen for colon cancer.

There are other screening options, but the colonoscopy detects more cancers, examines the entire colon and can be used for screening, diagnosis and removing precancerous polyps in one visit.

Medical illustration of a colon polyp.

Myth 11: A colon polyp means cancer.

Most polyps are harmless, and they are found and removed before they can turn cancerous.

A couple riding bikes with their two children.

Myth 12: Colorectal cancer can’t be prevented.

About 90% of colon cancer deaths are preventable. Colon cancer can be prevented by getting a screening colonoscopy and removing polyps. Lower your cancer risk by: exercising — eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains — limiting red meat and alcohol consumption — and by not smoking.

Patient speaking with her doctor.

Schedule your screening colonoscopy today!

Colonoscopies at National Jewish Health gives peace of mind knowing that experts have visualized 100% of the colon. Our screenings accurately detect benign (noncancerous) tumors more often than the national average. You can be confident that you are getting the best quality screening. Schedule today.


This information has been reviewed and approved by Neil Toribara, MD (February 2023).