Colonoscopy screening by Heidi Klum raises awareness of process after she was ‘late to the party’

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“America’s Got Talent” judge Heidi Klum recently had some memorable photos taken, not of herself, but of her colon.

And she’s using it to make people aware of the importance of colon cancer screening.

The 49-year-old recently shared during a performance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” that she had a colonoscopy while celebrating her three-year wedding anniversary with her husband, German guitarist Tom Kaulitz.

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He has a form of migraine known as cluster headache – so the couple went on a health retreat in Austria.

“I usually have my photo taken from the outside, but they were all in there,” Klum told comedian Nicole Byer, who was the guest host of the late night show two weeks ago.

Heidi Klum is married to musician Tom Kaulitz.  She discussed the recent test to screen for colon cancer.

Heidi Klum is married to musician Tom Kaulitz. She discussed the recent test to screen for colon cancer.
(Getty Images)

She learned that the gut is 8 meters long, but admitted that “the photos 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. The screening is done by a person who has no symptoms to look for disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“There are multiple ways to screen for colon cancer, including colonoscopy, stool testing, and by imaging (virtual colonography),” said Dr. Avinash Ketwaroo, a gastroenterologist and associate professor of medicine at the Yale School of Medicine in Connecticut.

“Colonoscopy has the advantage of allowing the detection and removal of precancerous polyps during the same procedure.”

Nearly all colorectal cancer develops 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 precancerous polyps — so those can be removed before they have a chance to become cancerous.

Heidi Klum discussed her recent colonoscopy.  Doctors say it's generally safe and well-tolerated by most patients — and is a critical screening tool.

Heidi Klum discussed her recent colonoscopy. Doctors say it’s generally safe and well-tolerated by most patients — and is a critical screening tool.
(James Devaney/GC images)

“Colonoscopy has the advantage of allowing the detection and removal of precancerous polyps during the same procedure, and therefore can prevent colorectal cancer,” says 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 that you should be aware of before agreeing to the procedure.

These also include complications related to sedation and bleeding risks, “which is estimated to occur in about one in 1,000 procedures.”

“For colonoscopy, the benefits of detecting and preventing colorectal cancer are significant and far outweigh the risks.”

Because a scope is inserted into the colon, another rare complication is “perforation or making a hole in the intestine, which occurs in about one in 3,000 to 1 [in] 5,000 procedures.”

Greenwald said that “all medical procedures have risks. For colonoscopy, the benefits of detecting and preventing colorectal cancer are significant and far outweigh the risks.”

Don’t worry about the ‘preparation’

Still, many patients are cautious about undergoing a colonoscopy because the colon must be cleared of stool. The preparation requires frequent trips to the toilet prior to the procedure.

“Preparing for colonoscopy is often considered the worst part of the procedure — comedians have created entire routines on the subject,” Greenwald added.

While other screening tests are available to detect polyps, if a polyp is detected during the test, a colonoscopy should be performed later to remove them.

While other screening tests are available to detect polyps, if a polyp is detected during the test, a colonoscopy should be performed later to remove them.
(iStock)

“However, newer and better tasting prep solutions are available and it is possible to achieve full colonoscopy prep with lower volumes of liquid than previously thought.”

And then when the “prep” is complete — with that lower volume of liquid and better-tasting solutions — it’s generally “not as bad as people expect it to be,” Greenwald noted.

But some people prefer 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, if a polyp is detected, a colonoscopy should be performed later to remove them.

Some less invasive screening tests are the 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 generally done annually; a patient receives 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 returned to a lab, where they are checked for the presence of blood.

Another type of stool test is known as FIT DNA testing that looks for blood in the stool as well as “abnormal bits of DNA that could be from polyps or cancer,” known commercially as Cologuard, Greenwald noted.

In this image released on May 17, Heidi Klum attends the 2021 MTV Movie and TV Awards: UNSCRIPTED in Los Angeles, California.

In this image released on May 17, Heidi Klum attends the 2021 MTV Movie and TV Awards: UNSCRIPTED in Los Angeles, California.
(Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

This test, which is done once every three years, requires the patient to collect a full stool, which is then sent to a lab to look for “altered DNA” and for 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 and remove precancerous polyps, and to identify colon cancer earlier when it is easier to treat.”

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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 a Repeat Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is generally recommended every 10 years in moderate-risk individuals according to national guidelines, Greenwald noted.

However, stool tests need to be done more frequently to be as effective.

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Klum admitted she was “a little late to the party” getting a colonoscopy because she’s turning 50.

“Recently, the recommended age to have your first screening test was lowered to 45 from the age of 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 the first examination,” Greenwald noted.

“Patients who have colon polyps once are at greater risk of developing colon polyps later and need more intensive monitoring.”

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