What to expect during your colonoscopy.
The colonoscopy is a diagnostic tool used by gastroenterologists to detect abnormalities in the colon. Also known as the large intestine (encompassing the sigmoid colon, descending colon, transverse colon, ascending colon and cecum), the colon is fully 5 feet long and 3 inches in diameter. Colonoscopy is on the front lines of early detection of cancer, due to its ability to detect anomalies and irregularities. It continues to be the most called-upon diagnostic support for cancer detection.
Prior to a colonoscopy, the patient will be mildly sedated. This allows the practitioner the opportunity to examine the colon in its entirety. The rectum is also examined during a colonoscopy.
Many patients have some anxiety around colonoscopies, so I like to explain how they work in some detail. This usually helps patients prepare themselves mentally for the procedure, which is painless.
The day before a colonoscopy, patients are requested to undertake colon cleansing. This is probably the most important aspect of the colonoscopy. That’s why it’s crucial that patients follow my instructions to the letter. Their co-operation in this stage of the colonoscopy process allows me to clearly see abnormalities like polyps, areas of inflammation and possible bleeding, as well as diverticulosis (pouches which form in the colon wall).
On the day of your colonoscopy, following sedation, a flexible scope is inserted through the rectum and extended through all parts of the colon until the cecum is reached. This is where your colon begins. Often, I’ll engage the ileocecal valve. This part of intestinal system is where the small and large intestines connect to one another. Going through this valve allows me to examine the ileum, which is part of the small intestine.
As said above, the colonoscopy is a frontline diagnostic tool which supports early detection of cancer. It is the most important tool in my toolbox in this respect, but patients are part of early detection. The sooner you come for a colonoscopy, the greater my chances of detecting and treating a problem.
Who needs a colonoscopy?
If you’re over 50, or come from a family with a history of cancer, you’re a prime candidate for a colonoscopy.
For the general population (of either gender) colon cancer risk is approximately 6%. That doubles if a member of your close family (parent, child, sibling) had polyps after the age of 50. Lifestyle risks for colon cancer include smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol and obesity. Crohn’s, and colitis disorders are also indicators of increased colon cancer risk.
Symptoms which warn of problems include abdominal pain, sudden weight loss (unintentional, or unexplained), diarrhea and constipation. Blood in the stool is a signal you should come in for an evaluation and colonoscopy.