A colonoscopy is a routine procedure used to check for problems present within the colon and rectum. It is usually recommended that patients have one once they reach their 50s to screen for certain diseases. Some are encouraged to have one sooner if the doctor suspects a medical condition may be present, to determine the cause of certain symptoms, or if the individual is at risk of a disease or medical condition such as colon cancer. The exam is dreaded by many because of its invasiveness, but sedation is used in most cases to minimize pain and discomfort during the procedure.
If you are 50 years or older and have no other risk of colon cancer other than your age, you may be encouraged to undergo this exam once every decade. If you are at a higher risk of this disease, colonoscopies may be recommended at greater frequency. Individuals who are under 50 years old may be encouraged to undergo this exam in some cases if they are considered at higher risk of colon cancer. It may also be recommended if you experience symptoms such as rectal bleeding, chronic diarrhea or constipation, pain in the abdominal region, or other problems pertaining to the intestine or abdomen.
The procedure itself involves the insertion of a long tube called a colonoscope into the rectum. It is guided throughout the colon, which allows the doctor to view the inside of the rectum and colon thanks to a small camera on the tip of the scope that corresponds to a monitor in the exam room. Air may be pumped into the colon to inflate it, which allows for a better view. If necessary, tools may be introduced through the tube so polyps and other tissue may be removed. Samples may be collected for a biopsy in some cases. Expect the procedure to last between 20 minutes and an hour depending on whether samples must be taken or anything needs to be removed.
You may feel like you need to move your bowels as the air is pumped into the colon, and some experience some cramping in the abdomen. Once the procedure is completed, you’ll likely spend about an hour recovering from the sedation. Like any procedure requiring sedation, somebody needs to drive you home following the procedure and you will be advised to rest for the remainder of the day. Our physician will advise you of any dietary restrictions, especially if tissue or a polyp was removed during the exam. Expect to pass gas following the exam as air escapes the colon, and bloating is common as well.
The physician will go over further recovery instructions with you prior to the exam so you know what to expect going into the procedure. A colonoscopy, while unpleasant to think about, is a routine procedure performed every single day. It is a diagnostic and preventative exam that is routine for most individuals. Catching certain medical conditions or diseases at an early stage may mean that treatment is more effective, so do not procrastinate and contact our practice to learn more about the procedure.