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With Large Injury Numbers, Is a Colonoscopy Even Worth It?

A colonoscopy is not a pleasant procedure. But the mainstream medical consensus is that it saves lives from colorectal cancer.

And yet, a major European study that involved 84,585 people has left doctors surprised and disappointed.

It turns out that a colonoscopy may not be as effective as everyone thought.

When we looked into it, the really shocking part was the number of injuries that occur during colonoscopy screenings.

So is this procedure worth it?

Let’s look at those numbers together so that you can make an informed decision. We’ll also talk about other great options that you can do instead of going for a colonoscopy procedure.


Interview trailer:

Watch the full interview:



Dan Skorbach:

For those who don’t know what a colonoscopy is, it goes something like this. You have your large intestine. It’s about five feet long. And I think we all know what it does.

During a colonoscopy, a technician puts a fiber optic tube into the anus and gently continues to push it further into the large intestine. The technician also uses a remote control to turn the head of the tube. And that makes it possible for this thing to go up, across, and down the entire large intestine. That takes about 15 minutes one way.

The head of the tube has a camera, a light. It can blow air to expand the column to give better room for movement. It can spray water. And it’s got an entire channel that is used to pass up different surgical instruments.

This procedure is done for a number of reasons. To investigate bleeding, ulcers, constipation, or persistent diarrhea. It’s used for therapy to straighten out a twisted colon and help remove obstructions. It can also cut off questionable lumps.

Which brings us to cancer screening. In 2002, the nation’s top healthcare experts in the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force began recommending colonoscopies to people who turn 50 as the golden standard for screening colorectal cancer. It’s the third most common cancer that is diagnosed in the U.S., And it’s the third leading cause of cancer death.

Last year, the Task Force lowered their screening recommendation. So now the American Cancer Society says it’s important for people to get a colonoscopy once they turn 45. And every ten years after that. Why?

Well, what they want to check for is polyps. These are abnormal cell growths in the large intestine. Mainstream science doesn’t really know why they form. Some of the polyps are benign. And some can go on to become cancerous within ten to 15 years. So the goal of a colonoscopy is to check if you have polyps, to remove them, and to test if any could become cancerous.

In 2023 the American Cancer Society predicts that about 153,020 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. And some 52,550 people are predicted to die from this disease.

So it makes sense to save these people’s lives with a procedure. But how effective is colonoscopy? And is it the right procedure for everyone?

This past October, a landmark study came out of Europe. A total of 84,585 patients over 55 years old were involved in a randomized trial across three countries. And what they found has definitely shocked some doctors.

Some of the people were invited to colonoscopies. The rest were not. The ones that were not invited had a 0.31 percent risk of dying from colorectal cancer. The ones who were invited had a 0.28 percent risk of dying from colorectal cancer.

Of course, not everybody who was invited to a colonoscopy decided to go. Less than half of the people did. But the ones who did go to take a colonoscopy, after about 10 years, still had a 0.24 percent risk of dying from colorectal cancer.

Now the shocking part of this study is that this number didn’t go anywhere close to zero. Of course, it reduced your risk from 0.31 to 0.24 percent. That’s a good thing. But a colonoscopy doesn’t seem like the holy grail of solving colorectal cancer.

After this European study came out, the American College of Gastroenterology offered some criticism.

They looked deeper in the numbers and pointed out that if the person went to get a colonoscopy and the cancer was discovered, their risk of dying from that cancer went down by 50 percent from 0.30 to 0.15 percent.

They also wanted everyone to know that this study has limitations and may not entirely represent the effectiveness of colonoscopies in America. The College is now concerned that regular folks may shy away from their colonoscopy screenings.

And they also said this after some media reports: “characterizing a sophisticated diagnostic medical intervention that can visualize and remove cancers and pre-cancers when performed by trained experts as “awkward” and “invasive” … is fear-based reporting that is potentially harmful.”

Dan Skorbach:

Now, we are not trying to scare you, but not every colonoscopy procedure goes perfectly well.

In fact, the U.S. government funded a meta-study, a study that looks at many studies that tried to determine how many people are seriously injured after a screening colonoscopy.

In the U.S., 6.3 million screening colonoscopies are done per year. That’s the colonoscopy the doctor invites you to when you turn 45 or 50 and roughly every decade after that.

When it comes to serious injury, 9,198 patients will have major bleeding, and just 1,953 will have their colon punctured. So that’s a total of 11,151 that could be injured this year from a screening colonoscopy. And these rates increase when there’s a biopsy or a polyp is removed.

But how many colorectal cancers are prevented? The European study suggests that for every 10,000 people that go to a screening colonoscopy, about 52 cancers are prevented. But according to the U.S. meta-study we cited earlier, for every 10,000 patients, 17 are seriously injured. And this is just major bleeding and punctures. We’re not even talking about infections from the tube itself or pneumonia that could develop from the sedation or the potential harm that’s done to your gut flora after drinking a laxative before the procedure.

So is a colonoscopy even worth getting? And even a better question, are there other options?

For all the dads in their 50s who are saved by this procedure, yes, 100 percent it’s worth it. But what about the 70-year-old grandmother who died after the procedure. Or a healthy middle-aged man who developed sepsis from a puncture?

Do we really need to subject our middle-aged folks to an unpleasant colon flush, sedation, and potential injury?

For one, The Lown Institute, a healthcare think tank, has pointed to a study that found a colonoscopy is actually overused by about 17 to 25.7 percent.

Nursing homes, for example, seem to invite very old people to get a colonoscopy, even though they are outside of the recommended age. The procedure itself is more taxing for seniors because they have frail intestines, and they’re easier to puncture.

If you look at the other side of the age range, healthcare providers say that for women who are young and slim, the procedure can be harder to perform because their intestines are more angular. It’s also complicated if the patient had certain surgeries.

And overall, based on the 6.3 million screening colonoscopies done throughout the year, the Lown Institute says that at least a million of them could be unnecessary because either the patient is too young, too old, or has had them too frequently.

So, when is colonoscopy actually worth doing? Our contributing doctor recommends a balanced approach.

First, determine with your doctor what your risk is of developing colorectal cancer.

If you’re healthy and have no family history of it, there are less invasive tests available. There’s sigmoidoscopy, which only travels up to the bottom end of the colon. There are fecal tests that monitor changes in gut chemistry. These can be done at home. The Cologuard test, for example, claims that it can detect 92 percent of colon cancers. And you only need to do it every three years. And if it comes up positive, then you should definitely schedule a colonoscopy.

But when it comes down to this procedure, just get familiar with who is doing it. Nationally acclaimed integrative doctors have delved much into this topic. Dr. Sherri Tenpenny says that based on research, technicians with good outcomes should be doing over 591 colonoscopies per year.

The risks of injury also seem to increase significantly when a trainee is involved.

So ask how many procedures the technician does per year, and try to opt out of tests done by doctors in training. And if you have elderly parents, make sure you all understand the risks that come with age.

We can talk a lot more on this topic. But we have the best crowd here on the Epoch Times. Lots of people talk about their experiences in the comments. And we invite you to join the conversation.

So please share this video. Especially with people over 45, because informed decisions save lives and avoid unnecessary harm.

This is Frontline Health, I’m Dan Skorbach, stay healthy America.


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