Colonoscopy is one of the best ways to detect and prevent colon cancer. Here’s how you can prepare for the procedure and what to expect during and after it.
What is a colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy is a procedure that is done to thoroughly examine the lining of the colon and rectum. It is currently the most accurate test for examining the colon, and also allows polyps that may cause cancer to be removed.
What happens during a colonoscopy?
A flexible tube is inserted into the anus and advanced along the rectum and colon until it reaches the beginning of the colon. The patient is usually sedated. This technique allows direct visualisation rather than relying on indirect imaging techniques; it is the only technique that allows polyps to be removed.
When is it required?
Your doctor may recommend a form of colon examination called a colonoscopy to screen for colon cancer if you have a personal or family history of polyps or colon cancer or experience symptoms include:
- Changes in bowel habits
- Suffering from inflammation bowel disease
- Passing out blood and/or mucus
- Abdominal pain and discomfort
Who should go for regular colonoscopy screening?
- If you are over 50 years old. People younger than 55 years. People should remain watchful, especially if they have other risk factors mentioned below.
- If you have a family history of colorectal cancer.
- If you have a personal history of polyps or colorectal cancer.
- If you have a history of polyps or colorectal cancer, the risk of developing cancer or having it recur increases.
How to prepare for colonoscopy?
Before the procedure, you will need to take some special measures to clear the colon of stool so that your doctor has a clear view of the inside of the colon. Laxatives will be given the day before to purge the contents of your bowels. Drink as much clear fluid as possible during this process. To aid in the cleansing, you will also be asked to avoid fibre-rich food such as vegetables and fruits two days before the examination. If you are on aspirin or other blood-thinning medications, you might be advised to stop those medications temporarily.
What to expect during the procedure?
On the day, arrive about 30 to 60 minutes before the appointment time so that you can use the bathroom and get ready. In most cases, the procedure is done under sedation so there will be no discomfort. During the procedure, the scope is inserted into the anus. This gives the doctor the advantage to pick up anomalies. The other advantage is that the tube allows for the insertion of tools and, thus, the immediate removal of any polyps or growths. These samples are sent to the lab for assessment.
Is it safe? Is there any risk?
The most serious complication that can occur is that of colonic perforation. The risk is less than 1 in 1000 or 0.1%. Perforation means break in the wall of the colon. This may be caused by direct trauma of the colonoscope pushing and causing a tear in the colon wall. In some cases, there is a delay perforation after removal of a polyp. This is usually due to thermal injury at the time of polyp removal or when the cut is too deep into the wall of the colon. If perforation happens, surgery is usually required to rectify it, though there are now new but unproven techniques to try to close the hole through the colonoscope.
What happens are colonoscopy?
You may feel drowsy from the sedation so it is important not to drive yourself home after the procedure. You can also expect to feel bloated and experience flatulence because of residual air left in the colon. Most people also experience fewer bowel movements over the next few days due to the prior cleaning of the colon.