Colonoscopy is a test to find out the condition of the colon and the rectum. A long, thin tube with a camera on its end is inserted through the rectum. A colonoscopy helps to see deep inside the colon.
The colonoscopy helps spot small growths called polyps inside the colon that have the potential to become cancerous.
If you were suffering from pain, bloody stool, constipation or diarrhoea, a colonoscopy is suggested to detect the reason for your condition.
When is colonoscopy required?
Colonoscopy is a good idea if you are over 45 years of age, it helps to prevent colon cancer. If there is a family history of colon cancer, rectal cancer or polyps then ask your doctor when the first screening should be done. It is better to start early.
How to prepare for it?
The doctor will do a particular procedure or give a medication to clean out the colon a day before the procedure. You will be advised not to eat any solid food 24 hours before the colonoscopy. You will have to drink only clear beverages, like plain tea or coffee, plain water or soda. You will stop eating or drinking just after midnight before the procedure.
Bowels to be cleared
The idea is to get rid of any waste or stool in the digestive tract. The doctor will prescribe a laxative the day before or on the morning of the colonoscopy. Some others will need an enema. Once the colon is emptied, the doctor will get a clear view of any polyps, bleeding, or signs of cancer.
Adjust your medicines
Your doctor will discuss with you which medications should be stopped or which can be cut back a few days before the procedure. Certain medications like aspirin, blood thinners, diabetes medicines, iron pills etc. should be intimated to the doctor and taken according to medical advice.
The colonoscopy day
On a particular day, someone has to accompany you since the doctor will give some sort of sedative to control pain, if any and this will make you feel dizzy. Driving and being alone has to be avoided.
The colonoscopy procedure
The colonoscopy procedure usually takes anywhere between 30 – 60 minutes. The doctor will insert the colonoscopy tube inside the rectum and up the colon. The first air is blown through the tube to widen the colon. This makes it easier to see the insides. The doctor then uses a monitor screen to see the inside of the colon and looks for polyps or other growth. Mostly the procedure is painless.
Removing the polyps
The polyps are small tissue clumps that can cause pain or bleeding during bowel movements, diarrhoea, or constipation. It is a good idea to remove them during the colonoscopy itself. Since most of them are likely to be pre-cancerous.
When do you need a biopsy?
If the doctor detects any changes in the colon tissue or thinks that it may be signs of cancer, then he may advise a biopsy. A small sample of the tissue is taken and sent to a lab to be tested for cancer cells.
After your colonoscopy
After the colonoscopy procedure, you will be asked to rest for an hour or so at the hospital and kept under observation. You’ll have excess gas since the air which was blown in has to be expelled. There may be mild cramps or a little blood in the first stool after colonoscopy. Call the doctor if the bleeding persists and if you have severe pain.
How often you need a colonoscopy
IF your colonoscopy results are normal, then the next one could be after a gap of 10 years. If you have negligible polyps, then you need the procedure once in 5-10 years but if the polyps are bigger, you may need it more often.