How Safe Is An Endoscopy? Procedures and Risks

Most people wonder about the safety of an endoscopy when their physician recommends this procedure. Although an endoscopy is very common, it’s normal to feel reluctant. Gaining knowledge about this procedure can help put your mind at ease.

What Is An Endoscopy?

The endoscopy is a nonsurgical way to examine the digestive system. The doctor passes a device called an endoscope from the mouth to the throat so that he or she can see the esophagus, small intestine, and stomach. Doctors order the test for a variety of reasons, including cancer diagnosis, detection of ulcers, polyps, and internal bleeding. In addition to diagnostics, the gastroenterologist can actually treat some conditions with the endoscopy. Colon polyps may be removed and bleeding can be stopped.

A Safe Gastroenterology Procedure

The endoscopy is considered one of the safest medical procedures and carries a very low level of risk. Last year, the results of a large study involving 20,620 patients—conducted at Technion’s Gastroenterology Unit in Israel—were published at PubMed. The conclusion was that “open-access upper gastrointestinal endoscopy is a safe and effective system.”

While risks are low, your gastroenterologist will review your individual condition before the procedure. Rare complications include perforation, problems with sedation, infection, bleeding, and pancreatitis, though these complications are generally associated with pre-existing conditions. This gastroenterology procedure is normally done as an outpatient procedure, and there is virtually no recovery time needed.

Endoscopy is a vital diagnostic and treatment tool. Patients can have the necessary procedure with confidence knowing that the endoscopy is safe and that complications are rare.


What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. By the time the condition reaches an advanced stage, the odds of overcoming it are less likely. However, when detected early, colorectal cancer can be effectively treated. By the time symptoms are apparent, colorectal cancer is often in a very advanced stage. It's important to have regular screenings once you reach the age of 50, and you may need to consider screenings sooner if there is a family history of this kind of cancer. The best way to determine the best course of action is by consulting with a gastroenterology specialist, but additional information is highlighted below.

Colorectal cancer is a broad term for specific types of cancer like colon cancer and rectal cancer. In its early stages, polyps usually appear in the large intestine or rectum. In the earliest stages, these polyps are typically noncancerous. Over time, though, these benign polyps are very likely to develop into cancerous growths. As the growths grow larger, noticeable symptoms may start to develop. If colorectal cancer is detected while it is still in an early stage, the polyps can be removed with fewer complications.

Detecting Colorectal Cancer Early

One of the main reasons colorectal cancer is so lethal is because it often goes undetected until it is too late. By detecting polyps while they are still benign, gastroenterologists can remove them and ward off colon cancer and rectal cancer. The most effective way to detect colorectal cancer in its earliest stages is by performing a colonoscopy.

When is the Right Time to have a Colonoscopy?

In general, you should have your first colonoscopy when you turn 50. However, if you have a family history of the condition or other risk factors, your gastroenterologist may advise you to undergo the procedure sooner. This short procedure could save your life.


Who is Most at Risk for Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer develops from polyps in the digestive tract. These polyps start out benign but eventually develop into cancerous tumors. The cancer cells destroy neighboring tissue and may eventually metastasize, forming additional tumors in other areas of the body.

Colon cancer is preventable and treatable in its early stages. The disease can be detected early on through screening performed by a gastroenterologist. For individuals presenting normal risk, University Endoscopy Group recommends colonoscopies beginning at age of 50.

Read on to learn which risk factors increase the chances of developing colon cancer.

Some studies show that diets high in fat, particularly animal fat, and low in fiber and calcium may contribute to colon cancer risk. People who eat few vegetables and fruits may have a higher chance of developing the disease. Researchers continue to work to understand the role diet plays in the development of colon cancer.

Obesity increases the risk of colon cancer. Abdominal obesity, measured by waist circumference, shows a strong link to colon cancer risk. Some experts believe that increased levels of insulin in overweight people may contribute to the development of colon cancer.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, results from abnormal developments in the digestive tract. Individuals who have had IBD 10 years or longer have an increased likelihood of developing colon cancer.

Growths in the colon or rectum become more common as people age. Most people diagnosed with colon cancer are over 50, and according to the National Cancer Institute, the average age for diagnosis is 72. Younger people can also develop colon cancer, however.

Personal Medical History
Individuals who have had colon cancer once may develop it again. Women who have had cancer of the breast, ovary or uterus have a slightly elevated chance of developing colon cancer.

Family History
An individual with a child, sibling or parent who has had colon cancer is at higher risk of developing the disease. The risk is heightened if the relative had colon cancer at an early age. Having a number of close family members with colon cancer further increases the risk.

Anyone experiencing one or more increased risks factors should consult a gastroenterology doctor and undergo a colonoscopy before the age of 50. It’s never too soon to assure colon health.


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