A colonoscopy is a type of diagnostic procedure used by gastroenterologists to examine the inside of your rectum and colon.
A thin tube with a camera and a light is inserted into the rectum via the anus and the video is shown on a screen for the doctor to view.
Why Would I Need A Colonoscopy?
If you are experiencing rectal bleeding, changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain, or unexplained weight loss, your doctor might recommend a colonoscopy to investigate the possible cause of these distressing symptoms.
The procedure screens for abnormalities in the colon, such as polyps, ulcers, inflammation, or signs of colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide. Even if you aren’t experiencing symptoms. routine screening is often recommended for people over the age of 50, or earlier if you have a family history of colorectal cancer.
What Happens During A Colonoscopy?
The doctor uses a thin, flexible colonoscope tube with a small video camera attached to its end to examine the inside of the colon. The colonoscope is carefully advanced through the colon, examining the lining and taking biopsies or removing any polyps found.
You will need to clean out your colon before the procedure. This often involves following a special diet 1 to 3 days before the procedure and taking a strong laxative the night before. This is often referred to as “bowel prep”.
The procedure itself is uncomfortable, so it is typically done under sedation or anaesthesia so that you don’t feel it. The sedation might also help you forget the procedure afterward.
The type and level of sedation may vary depending on your health and your healthcare provider’s preference.
3. The Procedure
You’ll lie on your side or back while your doctor slowly inserts a colonoscope into your rectum. The scope, which is long enough to reach the entire length of your colon, contains a light and a tube that enables your doctor to pump air into your colon. The air inflates the colon to give your doctor a better view.
4. Polyp removal and biopsy:
Polyps or other types of abnormal tissue can be removed through the scope during a colonoscopy if necessary.
Tissue samples (biopsies) can be taken as well. The instruments to remove polyps and take tissue samples are inserted through the scope.
5. After The Procedure
You’ll spend an hour or so in recovery as the sedative wears off. The sedative can impair your driving ability, so you will need someone to take you home. Your doctor will also likely recommend that you take the rest of the day off to rest.
If the doctor removed polyps or performed a biopsy, you might have to wait several days or weeks for the results. If your doctor thinks you need to adjust your treatment or have another procedure, they will discuss it with you.
Frequently Asked Questions
The use of sedation or anaesthesia helps minimise discomfort and pain. Most patients report little to no pain during the colonoscopy itself.
On average, a colonoscopy typically takes around 30 minutes to 1 hour to complete, but you will spend a few days preparing for the procedure and at least a day recovering.