A colonoscopy is a procedure that allows a gastroenterologist to view the inner lining of a patient’s colon and rectum. The procedure is performed using a thin, flexible tube (a colonoscope) that is slowly guided through the colon. The end of the colonoscope is lighted and includes a camera that transmits images onto a screen in the procedure room. These images can reveal inflammation, ulcers and even cancerous or pre-cancerous growths within the intestines.
Did you know…
1 in 3 adults between the ages of 50 and 75 have not undergone recommended screening for colon cancer? That is approximately 23 million Americans who are putting themselves at risk of developing a potentially deadly cancer that may have otherwise been prevented by undergoing a colonoscopy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How do I know if I need a colonoscopy?
A. Your physician may recommend a colonoscopy if you have changes in bowel habits, blood in your stool, an unusual abdominal pain, a history of colon polyps or a history of colon cancer in your family, or if you suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis) or Crohn’s disease. Colonoscopies also can verify findings of polyps or tumors located with a barium enema exam, as well as evaluate intestinal inflammation, ulcerations and diverticulitis.
Q. What should I do before the procedure?
A. Always tell your doctor if you are taking any medications – particularly those that may affect blood clotting — or if you have any special medical conditions, including diabetes, pregnancy, lung or heart conditions. Also let your doctor know if you are allergic to any medications or eggs. Your physician can answer all your questions.
Q. Is any preparation necessary before the procedure?
A. Yes. Your colon must be completely clean for the colonoscopy to be thorough and safe. There are a variety of preparations your doctor can choose from to flush the colon. In addition, you will be asked to drink only clear liquids for one or two days before the procedure and you will be given advice on taking regular medications during that time. A list of detailed instructions will be provided by your physician.
Q. What happens during the procedure?
A. On the day of the procedure you will be given medication so you will not be awake for the procedure. During the procedure, you will lie on your left side on an examining table and the physician will insert the colonoscope into the rectum and gently move it through your colon. There are several tiny instruments in the scope that help the physician during the procedure: one to blow air into your colon, which inflates it to help the physician see, better; one to remove polyps or take biopsies; and one to stop any bleeding. After the procedure, you may experience a little discomfort, like the feeling of having gas, but that soon subsides. The entire procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes and most people can resume their regular diet later that day.