A colonoscopy is a medical exam that is used to detect abnormalities or changes in the rectum and large intestine. The colon is responsible for absorbing any leftover salts, water, vitamins, and minerals from food matter and compacting it into feces.
A colonoscopy is also performed for colorectal cancer screening in people without symptoms to check for colorectal cancer or polyps.
Colon cancer develops from growths within the wall of the intestine, like – tumors or polyps. In the United States, this type of cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths.
In addition, a colonoscopy can help your doctor:
- find a reason for chronic constipation, weight loss, or diarrhea;
- evaluate symptoms of bleeding or pain located in the abdominal area;
- explore the cause of unexplained changes in bowel habits.
Symptoms of colon cancer include:
- unexplained weight loss;
- a change in your bowel habits, including a change in the consistency of your stool or constipation or diarrhea, which lasts longer than 30 days;
- blood in your stool or rectal bleeding;
- a feeling that the bowel doesn’t empty completely;
- persistent abdominal discomfort, like – excessive intestinal gas, cramps, or pain.
Note – colonoscopy should not be used as a screening test for people at average risk of bowel cancer or with no symptoms.
You are at higher risk for colon cancer if you:
- smoke cigarettes or you are regularly exposed to second-hand smoking;
- are obese or overweight;
- are male;
- have Lynch syndrome, an autosomal dominant genetic condition which increases the risk of many types of cancer;
- have inflammatory bowel disease, like – Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis;
- are African American.
What Do I Need To Do Before Colonoscopy?
It is best if the doctor is informed of all current OTC and prescription medications you are taking. Blood thinners like warfarin (Coumadin), aspirin products, insulin, arthritis medications, and iron preparations are examples of medicines which may need special instructions.
Additionally, before this procedure, let your healthcare professional know about any special medical conditions you have, including:
- heart conditions;
- lung conditions;
- allergies to any medications;
Drinks and Foods You Can Eat Before Colonoscopy
You may eat or drink the following:
- smooth peanut butter;
- strained fruit juice, like – white grape or apple;
- hard candy;
- tea or plain coffee, but without cream or milk;
- iced tea;
- lemon juice;
- fat-free broth or bouillon;
- Italian ice;
- instant lemonade;
- hot chocolate;
- cucumbers without peel or seeds;
- ripe cantaloupe;
- peeled carrots.
Notes – if you take iron tablets, stop the week before the procedure as they make the inside of your bowel black and this makes it harder to see clearly.
Effective bowel preparation means that at least half the preparation is ingested on the day of colonoscopy.
How Is A Colonoscopy Performed
During the colonoscopy, your healthcare professional will insert a flexible tube with a CCD camera or a fiber optic camera on the end into the anus and up into the rectum and colon. You will lie on your left side with your knees drawn up toward your chest.
When the flexible tube is inserted into the rectum and along the colon, it facilitates your healthcare professional to see the lining of the whole large bowel.
In addition, the scope blows air into your colon, that expands the colon and helps your healthcare professional see more clearly.
If any polyps are found during the colonoscopy, they can be removed during this medical procedure using specialized medical instruments which run inside the colonoscope.
The procedure usually takes 15 to 60 minutes.
An estimated 10 percent of individuals will be found to have cancer when they have this procedure.
Approximately 50 percent of people who have the procedure will be found to have a polyp, that if removed, it may prevent colon cancer from developing.
Around 40 percent of individuals who have a colonoscopy will have a clear result.
Drinks & Foods To Eat After Colonoscopy
- apple butter;
- sports drinks with electrolytes;
- smooth nut butter;
- white bread or toast;
- fruit juice;
- mashed or baked potato;
- vegetable juice;
- herbal tea;
- saltine crackers;
- graham crackers;
- canned fruit, like peaches;
- tender, cooked vegetables;
- scrambled eggs;
Note – you can go back to your normal diet by the next day.
A colonoscopy poses few risks. According to statistics, about 5/1,000 individuals will have a serious complication after this procedure.
Complications can include:
- bleeding from the colon and/or perforation of the colon. Rarely, a patient’s colon may become perforated and he requires to be rushed to the emergency room;
- an infection;
- lung or heart problems;
- a reaction to the medication used for sedation or bowel preparation.
Note – the medication used for sedation takes time to wear off completely. Therefore, someone has to drive you home. Also, you will stay at the hospital for about 2 hours after the colonoscopy.
When To Contact Your Doctor
If you experience any of the following symptoms after having this medical procedure, call your healthcare professional immediately:
- extreme thirst;
- bloody stool or bleeding from the rectum;
- fever (high temperature);
- persistent nausea;
- extreme abdominal pain or bloating;
- redness or swelling at your sedation intravenous site;
- rectal bleeding (more than a tbs).
Note – you can reduce the cramping by taking several deep breaths during the colonoscopy.