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August 31, 2016 | Gastroenterology
Colonoscopy is a medical procedure that allows your doctor to get a close look at the inside of your entire colon. The colon, which is the last part of your digestive system, is composed of the large intestine and rectum. This close-up view helps your physician see polyps that may someday develop into cancer. Colorectal cancer, which is cancer of the colon or rectum, is the third most common cancer in the United States.
If the doctor sees a polyp, he will probably remove it during the procedure. She will send especially large polyps or tumors to the laboratory.
According to U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) anyone over the age of 50 should begin colorectal cancer screening. This screening should continue until you are 75.
Your gastroenterologist will advise you on how often you should have a colonoscopy. A healthy person may need one every ten years while someone with a high risk for colorectal cancer may benefit from more frequent screening.
Your doctor may recommend a colonoscopy if a similar test, known as a sigmoidoscopy, finds polyps or cancer in your rectum or part of the colon.
1. Meet with your gastroenterologist, who is a doctor with special training in performing colonoscopy and other procedures to diagnose or treat digestive disorders.
2. Take the day off work and arrange to have someone take you home after the procedure.
3. Eat a clear liquid diet the day before your exam.
4. Use the bowel prep recommended by the doctor performing your colonoscopy the night before your procedure. This prep cleans out your colon so your gastroenterologist can get a clear view of your intestine.
5. Stay near a bathroom.
The healthcare staff will monitor your vital signs and help you stay comfortable during the procedure. A nurse or other healthcare professional will place an intravenous (IV) needle in your arm through which you will receive sedatives, anesthesia or pain medicine to help you relax during your colonoscopy.
For colonoscopy, you will lie on a table as a gastroenterologist glides the colonoscope into your anus. The colonoscope is a long, flexible tube with a diameter about as large as a finger. A camera at the end of the colonoscope sends a video image to a monitor, where your doctor can view the tissue lining the inside of your large intestine. The colonoscope pumps air into your bowel to make it easier to visualize the tissue.
The doctor will advance the colonoscope the entire distance of your large intestine until it reaches the opening of your small intestine. The physician will then withdraw the colonoscope slowly and examine your colon a second time.
The gastroenterologist may remove polyps and send some to the lab for cancer screening. Polyps are very common and most are not cancerous, but removing polyps early is an effective way to prevent colorectal cancer. You will not feel the doctor removing polyps.
Colonoscopy typically takes about 30 minutes. You will stay at the outpatient clinic for an hour or two after the procedure. You may experience bloating or abdominal cramping during the first hour after colonoscopy; this is air trapped in your colon.
You may feel groggy for a while, as it takes some time for the sedatives to wear off. You will need somebody to drive you home.
If your doctor removed polyps, you may experience light bleeding from your anus. This is normal. Most people fully recover and return to work by the next day. Biopsy results are usually available within a few days.
The Live Better Team
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.