What is colonoscopy?

The colonoscopy is performed by a doctor experienced in the procedure and lasts approximately 30-60 minutes. Medications will be given into your vein to make you feel relaxed and drowsy. You will be asked to lie on your left side on the examining table. During a colonoscopy, the doctor uses a colonoscope, a long, flexible, tubular instrument about 1/2-inch in diameter that transmits an image of the lining of the colon so the doctor can examine it for any abnormalities. It is inserted through the rectum and advanced to the other end of the large intestine.

 

Why do you need one?

 Colonoscopy can be done as a screening for colon cancer and other problems. Everyone over the age of 50 who is at average risk of colon cancer should get a colonoscopy once every 10 years. If you’re at an increased risk, you may need more frequent procedures. The American College of Surgeons estimates that between 76 and 90 percent of colon cancer can be prevented through colonoscopy screening. The screening can help your doctor:

  • Look for signs of cancers and other problems
  • Explore the cause of unexplained changes in bowel habits
  • Evaluate symptoms of pain or bleeding located in the abdominal area
  • Find a reason for weight loss, chronic constipation, or diarrhea

 

What happens during the procedure?

The procedure lasts approximately 30-60 minutes. Medications will be given into your vein to make you feel relaxed and drowsy. You will be asked to lie on your left side on the examining table. During a colonoscopy,the colonoscope is inserted through the rectum and advanced to the other end of the large intestine.The scope bends, so the doctor can move it around the curves of your colon. You may be asked to change position occasionally to help the doctor move the scope. The scope also blows air into your colon, which expands the colon and helps the doctor see more clearly. You may feel mild cramping during the procedure. You can reduce the cramping by taking several slow, deep breaths during the procedure. When the doctor has finished, the colonoscope is slowly withdrawn while the lining of your bowel is carefully examined.

During the colonoscopy, if the doctor sees something that may be abnormal, small amounts of tissue can be removed for analysis (called a biopsy), and abnormal growths, or polyps, can be identified and removed. In many cases, colonoscopy allows accurate diagnosis and treatment without the need for a major operation.

How to prepare for colonoscopy?

Before our doctor will give you instructions for a “bowel prep.” You must have a clear liquid diet for 24 to 72 hours before your procedure. Make sure not to drink any liquids containing red or purple dye because they can discolor your colon.

Tell your doctor about any medications you’re taking, including over-the-counter drugs or supplements. If they can affect your colonoscopy, your doctor may tell you to stop taking them. These might include blood thinners, vitamins that contain iron, and certain diabetes medications.

Your doctor may give you a laxative to take the night before your appointment. They’ll likely advise you to use an enema to flush out your colon the day of the procedure.

You may want to arrange for a ride home after your appointment. The sedative you’ll be given for the procedure makes it unsafe for you to drive yourself.

 

Risks of the procedure
As with any medical procedure, colonoscopy has a small risk of complications. Approximately 5 out of 1,000 people can have a serious complication. Complications can include –
  • Reaction to the bowel preparation or medication used for sedation
  • Heart or lung problems
  • An infection
  • Bleeding from the colon and/or perforation of the colon (hole in the colon)
If a complication occurs, treatment including antibiotics, blood transfusion, hospitalization, repeat colonoscopy or surgery may be required. Certain cancers may never cause any symptoms or affect life expectancy or quality of life. However, research shows that most colon cancers are harmful and that colon cancer should be detected and treated as early as possible.

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