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“America’s Got Talent” Judge Heidi Klum recently took some memorable photos not of herself, but of her colon.
And she uses it to raise awareness of the importance of colon cancer screening.
The 49-year-old recently shared during an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” that she underwent a colonoscopy while celebrating her three-year marriage to her husband, German guitarist Tom Kaulitz.
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He has a type of migraine known as cluster headaches – so the pair went on a health retreat in Austria.
“Usually my picture is taken from outside, but they were all in there,” Klum told comedian Nicole Byer, who was the late-night show’s guest host two weeks ago.
She was told the intestine is 8 meters long but admitted ‘the pictures didn’t come out very well’.
What is a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a screening test often performed by a doctor who specializes in the gastrointestinal tract. Screening is done on a person who has no symptoms to check for a disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“There are several ways to screen for colon cancer, including colonoscopy, stool tests and imaging (virtual colonography),” said Dr. Avinash Ketwaroo, gastroenterologist and associate professor of medicine at Yale School. of Medicine in Connecticut.
“Colonoscopy has the advantage of allowing the detection and removal of precancerous polyps during the same procedure.”
Almost all colorectal cancers develop from abnormal growths in the colon or rectum, known as precancerous polyps, according to the CDC.
The health agency noted that a colonoscopy will show if there are any pre-cancerous polyps – so these can be removed before they have a chance turn into cancer.
“Colonoscopy has the advantage of allowing the detection and removal of precancerous polyps during the same procedure, and may therefore prevent colorectal cancer,” said Dr. David Greenwald, director of clinical gastroenterology and endoscopy at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
The benefits outweigh the risks for most people
Greenwald told Fox News Digital that a colonoscopy is generally safe and well tolerated with minimal risks, although there are some complications to be aware of before consenting to the procedure.
These also include complications related to sedation and bleeding risks, “which are estimated to occur in about one in 1,000 procedures”.
“For colonoscopy, the benefits of detecting and preventing colorectal cancer are substantial and far outweigh the risks.”
Because an endoscope is passed through the colon, another rare complication is “perforation, or making a hole in the intestine, which occurs in about 1 in 3,000 cases to 1 [in] 5,000 procedures.”
Greenwald said that “all medical procedures carry risks. For colonoscopy, the benefits of detecting and preventing colorectal cancer are substantial and far outweigh the risks.”
Don’t worry about “preparation”
Yet many patients are hesitant to undergo a colonoscopy because the colon must be cleared of stool. Preparation requires frequent trips to the toilet before the procedure.
“Preparing for the colonoscopy is often considered the worst part of the procedure — comedians have done whole routines about it,” Greenwald added.
“However, newer, tastier prep solutions are available, and it is possible to achieve a complete colonoscopy prep with lower fluid volumes than previously thought.”
And when the “preparation” is then complete — with this lower liquid volume and better-tasting solutions — it’s usually “not as bad as people expect,” Greenwald noted.
But some people just prefer to choose a less invasive screening approach.
Stool tests and other screenings
Greenwald told Fox News Digital that while other screening tests are available to detect polyps, a colonoscopy should be done later to remove them if a polyp is found.
Some less invasive screening tests are stool-based tests that look for blood in the stool, such as FIT or fecal immunochemical tests, he added.
“Colonoscopy remains the most effective way to reduce your overall risk of developing colon cancer.”
These tests are usually performed annually; a patient is given a test kit and uses a stick or brush to obtain one or more small stool samples, according to the CDC.
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The samples are then sent back to a laboratory, where they are checked for the presence of blood.
Another type of stool test is known as the FIT-DNA test which looks for both blood in the stool and “abnormal bits of DNA that could be from polyps or cancer”, which is commercially known as the Cologuard name, Greenwald noted.
This test, which is done once every three years, requires the patient to collect a complete stool, which is then sent to a lab to look for “altered DNA” and the presence of blood, according to the CDC.
“Colonoscopy remains the most effective way to reduce your overall risk of developing colon cancer,” Ketwaroo said. “It allows us to find precancerous polyps and remove them, and identify colon cancer earlier when it’s more easily treated.”
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It is a more efficient “one-step approach” compared to the “two-step approach with stool-based testing, where if the stool test is abnormal, the second step, a colonoscopy, is then needed to complete the screening continuum,” Greenwald added.
When should you have another colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is generally recommended every 10 years in people at average risk by national guidelines, Greenwald noted.
However, stool tests must be done more frequently to be as effective.
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Klum admitted she was “a little late to the party” to have a colonoscopy because she’s 50.
“Recently the recommended age to get your first HIV test was lowered to 45 from 50,” Ketwaroo said.
“This reflects a growing awareness of younger patients [having] Colon Cancer.”
Klum said her colonoscopy was normal.
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But if a colonoscopy shows precancerous polyps — then, depending on the type of polyp, “a shorter interval, often three or five years, is needed when colon polyps are detected on initial examination,” Greenwald noted.
“Patients who have colon polyps once are at higher risk of having colon polyps later and require more intensive monitoring.”