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Colonoscopy 101: Everything You Need To Know

Colonoscopy 101: Everything You Need To Know

Most people dread the idea of having a colonoscopy, however, it can be the test to save your life. Depending on your age, or genetic predisposition to cancer, you may be a candidate for a colonoscopy.  If you're older than 45, and at average risk of colon cancer, it may be time to have your colon checked. Thereafter, you would follow up with one every 10 years. Those who have other risk factors, or who have had abnormal tissues discovered in a previous colonoscopy, may require more frequent observation. A colonoscopy is a proven method of detecting cancer, or other bowel diseases. Here are some of the key facts that you need to know if you’re a candidate for a colonoscopy. 

When Is A Colonoscopy Needed?

A colonoscopy is a diagnostic procedure that allows a surgeon to view the inner lining of your large intestine and rectum.  Through the use of an endoscope, which is a thin, flexible tube with a light, a colonoscopy helps detect and diagnose colon-related health concerns.  A colonoscopy may be done to:

  • Examine the intestinal lining for signs of inflammation, bleeding, ulcers, tumors, or polyps
  • Collect tissue, called a biopsy, to screen for colorectal cancer for high risk patients, or those with unexplained symptoms
  • Follow up abnormal results from a barium enema, CT scan, stool test, or an MRI
  • Place a stent or remove an object
  • Post-operative review to examine the results of colon surgery

For average risk patients, it is usually recommended to have your first colonoscopy between the ages of 45 and 50, and every 10 years following. However, after your first colonoscopy, if there were significant findings, or if you are at high risk for colon cancer, you may be asked to return for a follow-up colonoscopy in 1 to 7 years. If you are concerned about your need for a colonoscopy, here are some guidelines to protect your colon health

How Is A Colonoscopy Done?
In advance of your colonoscopy, your surgeon will provide specific instructions to prepare for the procedure. You may be asked to follow a liquid diet for a day or more preceding the colonoscopy. Preparation includes completely clearing your colon with a laxative, and potentially an enema. Your doctor will likely use a combination of sedative, anaesthesia, and pain medication, which will be intravenously delivered into your bloodstream. This will lessen any discomfort during the procedure. 

For the exam, your doctor will likely have you lie on your side with your knees drawn toward your chest. The doctor will insert a colonoscope into the anus and through the rectum and the colon. The lighted scope allows the doctor to pump air, water, or carbon dioxide into your colon to inflate it for clearer viewing. If you are awake, you may feel some stomach cramping, or the urge to have a bowel movement when the scope is moved, or air is introduced. The scope will provide your surgeon with images on an external monitor to allow for close examination of the area. If tissue samples are needed, your doctor can insert instruments through the scope’s channel. In some cases, abnormal tissue or small polyps can be removed with the scope during the procedure.

What Happens After A Colonoscopy
A colonoscopy typically takes about 45 to 60 minutes. Afterwards, it is normal to feel some mild abdominal cramps, and to pass gas. Walking may relieve any discomfort. You will be monitored at the clinic until your surgeon determines it is safe for you to go home. If you were sedated, you will need someone to drive you home after the test, as you should avoid driving or operating heavy machinery for 24 hours. 

What Do Positive Results Mean
A colonoscopy is considered positive if any polyps or abnormal tissue is discovered in your colon. While polyps are not cancerous in general, some can be precancerous. If any tissue was removed during the colonoscopy, it will be analyzed carefully to determine whether they are precancerous, cancerous, or benign. Depending on the results of the colonoscopy, your surgeon will advise you of your treatment or monitoring options. 

 

The Benefits Of Having Your Colonoscopy At A

Private Clinic

The idea of having a colonoscopy can naturally cause anxiety. However, our team of Kelowna-based surgeons are highly-trained and have a strong core knowledge of all surgical specialties, so you can trust them to make thoughtful and informed decisions when it comes to every aspect of your health. Read more about the benefits of treatment at a private surgery clinic. To book your complimentary consultation at Okanagan Health Surgical Clinic, call 1-250-868-9799 or fill out the contact form.

 

FAQ

Q: What are the signs I need a colonoscopy?
A: The key to preventing colon cancer is to catch it early through screening. Many symptoms of colon cancer can be attributed to other conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, ulcers, hemorrhoids, or infection. It is wise to seek medical care if you have any of the following:

  • Ongoing bloating, abdominal pain, and cramps
  • Persistent changes to your bowel habits, such as diarrhea, or constipation
  • Changes in your stool shape, such as narrow, ribbon-like consistency
  • Blood on your rectum or in your stool, especially if it is bright red
  • Pressure that creates a constant urge ‘to go’ even just after having a bowel movement
  • Weakness and fatigue that accompanies any of the above listed symptoms, especially if combined with weight loss

Q: What are the side effects of a colonoscopy?
A: You may see blood in your stool for a couple of days if the surgeon removed tissue. It is common to experience nausea, vomiting, bloating, or rectal irritation. If the bleeding is heavy, contact the clinic right away. 

Q: What could positive results of a colonoscopy indicate?
A: Abnormal findings may indicate a number of conditions including: hemorrhoids, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease, diverticulosis, polyps, or cancer of the rectum or colon. If surgery is indicated after your colonoscopy, here are some pre-operative care guidelines.


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