Are colonoscopies dangerous?

Colorectal cancer screening is an important part of staying well. Colonoscopies are a proven, effective, and safe way to screen, prevent, and detect colorectal cancer early. They give you the best odds for a long, healthy, and productive life.

Risks and complications

Are there risks?

While there are risks associated with even the most routine medical procedures, the benefits of a colonoscopy significantly outweigh the associated risks for people ages 45 to 75.

The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy estimates that only three in 1,000 colonoscopies lead to serious complications.

Possible complications

While colonoscopy complications that lead to death are exceptionally rare, there are more common complications that may result in temporary discomfort or require further medical care.

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Risk for older adults

People over age 75 are at higher risk for complications from colonoscopies due to:

  • Underlying health issues
  • Dehydration or electrolyte imbalance from prep for the procedure

Those over age 75 should discuss all the benefits and risks of the procedure with their doctor.

Risks vs. benefits

Research indicates that skipping or delaying colonoscopies is significantly more dangerous to your long-term health than having the actual procedure.

In other words, a person’s risk of developing colorectal cancer is higher than the risk of having a complication from a colonoscopy.


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