A colonoscopy is a test that allows your doctor to examine the lining of your colon. They will need to look for abnormal growths (sometimes called polyps) and to inspect the inner appearance of your large intestine or colon. A thin flexible tube is passed through your colon from your rectum to inspect both these areas for any signs of unusual appearance or to view unusual growths that may occur in these areas. As scary as this all sounds, this standard procedure is relatively simple and will not cause you any lasting pain or discomfort.
Your doctor will be looking for polyps and any signs of colorectal cancer. It can also be helpful for individuals in certain age groups or with a strong family history of colon-rectal cancer to search for early signs of cancer. Since early detection increases your chances of survival in colorectal cancer, the colonoscopy is your best tool of defense to positively impact your health.
Colonoscopy is recommended by the American College of Surgeons, the American College of Gastroenterologists, and the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTP) as routine testing for individuals over the age of 50 years for people with a normal risk for colon cancer. If you have a strong family history of colon cancer or previous gastroenterology conditions that lead to colon inflammation or irritation, colonoscopies may have to be performed at a younger age and more often because of this higher risk of cancer. Problems that show need for screening with colonoscopy include blood in the stool, rectal bleeding, chronic diarrhea, iron deficiency anemia and sudden unexplained weight loss.
Colonoscopies are able to detect 95% of lesions found in the colon. Since colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, this test is crucial for your health. Individuals who have polyps removed from their colon as a routine part of their colonoscopy can increase their colon cancer survival rate by half.
Your colon’s health can be improved by eating brightly colored fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains, garlic, fish and legumes. Eliminating or moderating red meat, salt and fat intake can also make a positive difference in your the health of your colon. Physical activity thirty minutes a day is excellent advice. Limiting alcohol and avoiding tobacco also decrease your risk for colon cancer.
To view your colon completely, it is necessary to make sure that your colon is clean and empty before the procedure. A specific bowel preparation will be recommended for you to follow, usually consisting of a clear liquid diet and some specific medication. If you take a medication such as a blood thinner, you will need to discuss this medication with your doctor and make sure you understand how this procedure and its preparation may affect your medication dosage and administration. Follow all the recommendations of your provider closely and call if there are any questions or concerns about the preparation for the procedure. Sometimes, the colon is not clean enough for the study and the procedure must be rescheduled. For this reason, it is important to follow all the instructions provided by your physician and staff at the Endoscopy Center.
Please arrive at our facility 15 minutes before your appointed time. You will be greeted by our staff and shown to a private area where you can change into a gown. Usually an intravenous line will be placed in your arm to give you fluid and medications that will make you sleepy and also relax you during the procedure. After the procedure you will be fully awakened and then the nurses will monitor you and offer you some fluids to help with recovery. Some brief findings about the study you underwent may be discussed with you and your family if available. Driving yourself after the procedure will not be an option. Please be sure to have someone available to drive you home after your colonoscopy. Plan to rest at least twelve hours without any difficult work or driving responsibilities until you have fully recovered.
Following a colonoscopy, you may experience pressure and gas in the bowel that produce cramping and mild abdominal pain. Be sure to call your doctor with any concerns you might have. Call immediately if you experience fever, chills or severe abdominal pain. Within two weeks, biopsy reports and further information will be available regarding your colonoscopy. At your follow-up appointment/discussion, these results will be completely broken down for you and further recommendations will be provided as needed.
Two alternatives to colonoscopy are available. One is a barium enema study that is an X-ray evaluation with a dye that shows up on radiological film. It is not as accurate as a colonoscopy since it is not a direct evaluation, and the results are determined not in real time but read later by a radiologist. The other test is a flexible sigmoidoscopy that is a limited study with a shorter scope and examines only the last third of the colon nearest to the rectum.