“Endoscopies are so comfortable,” said no one ever. For some reason, endoscopies get such a bad name! Many people believe that the endoscopic procedure is very painful and uncomfortable.
In a bid to quell these misconceptions, Dr Quan Wai Leong, a gastroenterologist, was invited to host a DoctorxDentist Session.
He answered many questions reader questions and helped them gain a better understanding of endoscopy. Here's what you should know.
Wait, what is an endoscopy?
Endoscopy is a procedure where an instrument called an endoscope is used to examine the inside of your body.
An endoscope is a long, thin, flexible tube that has a light source and a camera on one end. The images of your insides are then relayed to a television screen.
To keep it simple, we'll be talking about routine endoscopies in this article.
Endoscopic procedures are used by various specialists
They are used by a variety of medical specialties to investigate problems arising from the different organ systems in our body.
These organ systems include the nose & throat by ENT specialists, the urinary tract by urologists, and most common of all, the digestive tract by gastroenterologists.
Routine gastroscopes used for the upper digestive tract can help to diagnose stomach ulcers, inflammation, tumour growth, and to arrest bleeding from ulcers.
Not everyone needs an endoscopy
Good news! You don't have to include an endoscopy in your routine health checks. Dr Quan emphasised that an endoscopy is only recommended when there is reason to do so.
Go for a scope if you are suffering from digestive problems
People who experience symptoms relating to digestive disorders would need an endoscopy.
Some examples include: heartburn, persistent abdominal pain, nausea, suspected blood in stools, difficulty swallowing, etc.
If these symptoms are not present, these are some of the reasons why an endoscopy might be required:
- Personal past history (e.g. colonic polyps)
- Family history (e.g. history of digestive cancer within the family)
- Abnormal scan or blood results found incidentally
- When one reaches a certain age (e.g. > 50 yrs) which qualifies him or her to have a cancer screening colonoscopy done
This list is by no means exhaustive.
Screening colonoscopy is recommended for anyone above 50
The risk of colon cancer increases around this period of time.
Research has shown that colonoscopy and polypectomy can reduce colon cancer-related deaths by more than 50%, making it the screening method of choice in many developed countries around the world.
Being kiasu is not always the best idea
For those of you who swears by the idiom, "better to be safe than sorry", Dr Quan suggests for you to hold your horses first!
He thinks that it's better for you to discuss it with your endoscopist in detail regarding the risks (yes there are risks; more about that later) involved. He/she will be able to help you weigh the pros and cons with you to see if the risk is worth taking.
An endoscopy in Singapore costs anywhere from $500 to $11,000
Why the huge discrepancy? Dr Quan explains that the prices vary so drastically because it depends on the type of endoscopy. There are many different types of endoscopic procedures available.
Apart from the scope itself, there are a few other components which will affect the final bill size for endoscopy. For example:
- Doctor’s professional fee
- Hospital facility fee
- Fee for tissue samples
- Miscellaneous fees for other items used in relation to the procedure, e.g. gauze
It's best for you to speak with your doctor directly to get a ballpark figure.
Yes, endoscopy is Medisave claimable
The amount claimable from Medisave is $650 for gastroscopy and $950 - $1,550 for colonoscopy.
Here's the best part, you don't have to worry about the Medisave component! Most endoscopy centres will help you to make the claim once you have indicated that you wish to do so.
Don't worry, routine endoscopies are safe!
Reason being, it's minimally invasive. Truth to be told, the risk of endoscopy is much lower than most surgery and most, if not all procedures.
You'll not remember a thing from your scope
Thanks to anaesthesia, patients are able to sleep through the entire procedure. When they wake up, they are either unaware or have no recollection of the procedure.
Serious complications rarely happen with straightforward endoscopies
Based on Dr Quan's experience, complications are rare with routine upper and lower body endoscopy.
For instance, a straightforward upper digestive endoscopy can be completed in 15 minutes. This procedure carries a very low risk of 1 in 10 thousand while colonoscopy carries a risk of 1 in a thousand.
However, like most other medical procedures, there's still a small risk for complications arising. The possible complications range from mild pain to bleeding and perforation.
The recovery period after an endoscopy is short
Recovery periods for routine upper and lower digestive endoscopies are usually fast (1 to 2 hours).
Until the sedatives wear off, you might experience some lightheadedness and aren't able to walk steadily.
Get someone to pick you up after
Having said that, it's best for you to arrange for someone to send you home after the procedure. You may still feel slightly sleepy for the rest of the day.
Most doctors will be happy to issue you a medical certificate so that you can rest well at home after the procedure.