WHY A COLONOSCOPY IS IMPORTANT?
This important examination can find problems and head off deadly cancer.
Many people worry about having their large bowel examined with a colonoscope. While anxiety is normal, the colonoscope is an amazing instrument that gives gastroenterologists a very close view of the large bowel, also called the colon.
Problems such as inflammation or bleeding can be seen and tumors or the tiny, precancerous growths called polyps can be removed during the procedure.
Colonoscopies are recommended for several reasons:
- A major, consistent shift in bowel habits, such as constipation, diarrhea, changes in stool size or shape, and a lot more or fewer bowel movements than normal for you
- Bleeding during bowel movements
- Unexplained weight loss
- Persistent abdominal pain
- A family history of colorectal cancer
- An age of 50 or older
Usually, gastroenterologists are looking for hemorrhoids, diverticular disease, inflammatory bowel disease, an obstruction, or some other problem. But always vigilant for signs of cancer and for polyps.
If a polyp is removed before it becomes cancerous, or in cancer's earliest stages, it can reduce or eliminate your odds of developing colorectal cancer.
Before your exam, you'll get an intravenous sedative. I use a lighted, flexible colonoscope about the diameter of an index finger to examine the rectum and colon, which is view on a video monitor. The exam lasts 15 to 45 minutes, depending on what I find and the colon's length, which varies from three to six feet.
You might feel discomfort when we inflate the colon slightly with air so we can better use the colonoscope. We can adjust the sedative to limit discomfort.
Gastroenterologists remove polyps for testing and take photographs they can compare your colon with exams done years later or before.