What is A Colonoscopy?
In order to view the entire lining of the colon and rectum, a colonoscopy is performed by a healthcare professional. The routine procedure is quick, with little discomfort, and provides an unobstructed view of the colon. Colonoscopies are usually performed as an outpatient procedure.
A colonoscopy is generally recommended when at least one of the following has occurred: bowel habits change, blood in stool, persistent abdominal pain, or the patient is aged 50 years or older. Colonoscopies are one of the best tools healthcare professionals have to detect colon cancer as well as diagnose other gastrointestinal issues.
When you talk to your healthcare provider about your screening, be sure to discuss which colonoscopy prep is right for you—there are many choices. The procedure is used to look for early signs of cancer in the colon and rectum. It is also used to diagnose the causes of unexplained changes in bowel habits. Colonoscopy enables the physician to see inflamed tissue, abnormal growths, ulcer and bleeding.
For the procedure, you will lie on your left side on the examining table. You will probably be given pain medication and a mild sedative to keep you comfortable and to help you relax during the exam. The physician will insert a long, flexible, lighted tube into your rectum and slowly guide it into your colon. The tube is called a colonoscope (koh-Lon-oh-skope). The scope transmits and image of the inside of the colon, so the physician can carefully examine the lining of the colon. The scope bends, so the physician can move it around the curves of your colon. You may be asked to change position occasionally to help the physician move the scope. The scope also blows air into your colon, which inflates the colon and helps the physician see better.
If anything abnormal is seen in your colon, like a polyp or inflamed tissue, the physician can remove all or part of it using tiny instruments passed through the scope. The tissue (biopsy) is then sent to a lab for testing. If there is bleeding in the colon, the physician can pass a laser, heater probe, or electrical probe, or can inject special medicines through the scope and use it to sop the bleeding.
Colonoscopy takes 30 to 60 minutes. The sedative and pain medicine should keep you from feeling much discomfort during the exam. You will need to remain at the colonoscopy facility for 1 to 2 hours until the sedative wears off.
Your colon must be completely empty for the colonoscopy to be thorough and safe. To prepare for the procedure you may have to follow a liquid diet for 1 to 3 days beforehand. A liquid diet means fat-free bouillon or broth, strained fruit juice, water, plain coffee, plain tea, or diet soda. Gelatin or popsicles in any color but red may also be eaten. You will also take one of several types of laxatives the night before the procedure. Also, you must arrange for someone to take you home afterward—you will not be allowed to drive because of the sedatives. Your physician may give you other special instructions. Inform you physician of any medical conditions or medications that you take before the colonoscopy.