Colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure in which your colon and rectum are inspected. This procedure helps examine, diagnose and treat lower gastrointestinal tract diseases. A long and flexible tube is inserted in the rectum and advanced to the other side of the large intestine. The tube has a tiny video camera at the tip which allows a clear view of the entire colon to the doctors. (Mayo Clinic, 2020) In case of any issue or if necessary, polyps or any abnormal tissues can be removed for a biopsy (analysis) during the colonoscopy. This procedure helps the doctors make a correct diagnosis generally and get the right treatment without any other major procedures. (Robinson, 2019)
When Should You Get a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is recommended by the doctor. They may do so in the following cases:
- Investigate intestinal issues & symptoms: If you have abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, chronic constipation, diarhhea or any other intestinal symptoms, a colonoscopy will help the doctor know the possible causes.
- Colon cancer screening: Colonoscopy is one of the options for screening for colon cancer. After the age of 50 and without any risks of colon cancer, a doctor may recommend a colonoscopy every 5 or 10 years.
- Screening for more polyps: A follow-up colonoscopy can be recommended by the doctor to find and remove more polyps. This reduces the risk of colon cancer. (Mayo Clinic, 2020)
How to Prepare for a Colonoscopy
Before a colonoscopy, ensure that your doctor has information about any special conditions like pregnancy, lung conditions, heart conditions, diabetes, allergies or any medications that may affect blood clotting. (Robinson, 2019) You have to keep in mind that your colon has to be empty or clean before the procedure. For this reason, the doctors may ask you to do the following:
- Follow a diet advised by your physician: Ideally, you should not consume solid food the day before the exam. You may be restricted from eating or drinking anything after midnight, the night of the exam. People are encouraged to consume only clear liquids like water, tea, coffee. Red beverages are to be avoided as they may be confused with blood during the procedure.
- Consume a laxative: To empty the colon, the doctor will ask you to take a special laxative. The laxative is consumed the night before the procedure or both the night before and the morning of the procedure.
- Adjust your medication: If you have diabetes, high blood pressure or heart problems that require medicines with iron supplements, consult your doctor as the medication may need to be adjusted before the procedure. Any other medicines consumed that thins the blood should be disclosed to the doctor as you may need to adjust the dose or stop the medicine completely for a while. (Mayo Clinic, 2020)
What to Expect During a Colonoscopy
Generally, you will be given a sedative to reduce discomfort, normally considered general anesthesia. The colonoscopy is conducted by the doctor by using a bendable scope with a camera which is inserted through the rectum. The colonoscopy generally takes 30-60 minutes and once it’s complete, the doctor will withdraw the scope while examining the lining of the bowel. (Robinson, 2019)
While a colonoscopy does not have any major risks, the chances of rectal bleeding or puncture of the colon are a risk. Do contact your doctor in the case of excessive or prolonged rectal bleeding, severe abdominal pain, fever, or chills. (Robinson, 2019)
Once the colonoscopy is over, the results will be thoroughly reviewed by the doctor and further diagnosis and treatment will be provided as per the results. Keep in mind that it is not advised to drive after this procedure and you’ll be asked to have someone drive you to and from the procedure. It is advised to not conduct any important work or make any decisions as well. (Mayo Clinic, 2020)
Hey, It’s Not So Bad
Many of us cringe at the thought of a colonoscopy, but we know it saves lives. Colon cancer if found in the early stage, has a high cure rate. Once you have it done, you’ll join the colonoscopy club and get to compare notes with others who have experienced the procedure. Think of it on the bright side! At the least, you’ll get a day off from work to recoup. Resume eating when it feels right and there is normally no restriction on what you eat. Welcome to a cancer free colon!
Robinson, Jennifer. “Colonoscopy Procedure: What Happens & How to Prep.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/colorectal-cancer/colonoscopy-what-you-need-to-know.
“Colonoscopy.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 18 Apr. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/colonoscopy/about/pac-20393569#:~:text=A%20colonoscopy%20.