As with any medical procedure, colonoscopies carry certain risks. One of the most common risks of this procedure is missing an underlying colon cancer or polyp during a screening. Studies suggest that nearly 1 in 3 cases of colorectal cancer is missed when a physician misses diagnosing an underlying polyp during a colonoscopy.
Having a clear understanding of the risk factors for missing colon cancer or polyps during a colonoscopy can help you and your health care provider make sure you receive appropriate care and stay as healthy as possible. Here are the 5 most common risk factors for missed colon cancer or polyps during your colonoscopy:
1. Insufficient bowel preparation: One of the most common reasons a polyp or cancer may be missed during a colonoscopy is because the patient’s colon is not adequately prepared, resulting in the polyp or cancer not being visible during the procedure. For this reason, it is critical to follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter when it comes to bowel prep for a colonoscopy.
2. Incorrect polyp identification: Depending on the size and shape of the polyp, it can be difficult to identify whether or not it is cancerous. When a polyp is misidentified as benign, it can be missed altogether, meaning that cancer can spread unchecked.
3. Poor bowel wall visualization: If the mucosal surface of the bowel wall is not adequately cleaned, the polyp or cancer may not be visible during the procedure. This is why it is important to take your doctor’s advice and go through with a vigorous bowel prep prior to the colonoscopy.
4. Poor visualization of a “blind spot”: There are certain areas of your colon that are commonly referred to as blind spots, as these areas are more difficult to visualize during a colonoscopy. For this reason, it is important to make sure you are taking a laxative such as polyethylene glycol prior to the procedure in order to clean the bowel wall and ensure there are no polyps or cancerous cells missed during the exam.
5. Insufficient exam time: Colonoscopies are time-consuming procedures, especially if the polyps are located away from the rectum and toward the cecum. During a rushed examination, polyps or cancer can be easily missed due to lack of time.
If you or someone you love is going through a colonoscopy and you believe that you are at risk for missing polyps or cancer, talk to your doctor about all of the risk factors and make sure any mitigating measures are taken. It is far better to be safe than sorry when it comes to colon cancer.