With colon cancer being one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the United States, it’s important for every man and woman over the age of 50 to undergo the colonoscopy procedure.
During a colonoscopy, a GastroCare LI gastroenterologist will insert a small tube about the thickness of a finger into the anus to examine the lining of the colon and rectum. If any polyps are found, they will be removed with electrical heat through the colonoscope. A biopsy will likely be taken for further analysis.
If there are no issues, a follow-up colonoscopy will need to be scheduled in 10 years. If polyps are found, then a follow-up colonoscopy will likely be needed in 5-10 years.
Since a sedative is used to make you feel relaxed a sleepy, you should feel little to no pain during the procedure and should have someone drive you home from your appointment, as you will still be drowsy from the medication.
How to Prepare for a Colonoscopy
Whether you’ve undergone multiple colonoscopies or are preparing for your first one, it’s important to know how best to prepare to ensure the procedure goes as smoothly as possible and produces accurate results. The first step in preparing is making sure your colon is cleaned and clear of any obstruction that could impede the results.
Your doctor will go over all of this before the operation, but in general, patients are asked to drink large amounts of a colon cleansing solution or go on a clear liquid diet for a few days before the examination. In some instances, this may include taking laxatives or having one or two enemas beforehand for maximal cleanliness. Residual stool leftover in the colon could result in inaccurate results and a repeat of the examination.
For patients on prescription medication, make sure you consult with your doctor beforehand. While most medicine is okay to continue taking leading up to the procedure, some may interfere with the results or put you at risk of complications. This includes blood thinners, diabetes medication, or anything else that may affect blood clotting. Make sure to alert your colonoscopist of all medication you are on, any special medical conditions you have, and if you are allergic to any medicine.
Because you will receive sedatives during the procedure, make sure you arrange for a friend or family member to drive you home.
Why Would I Need a Colonoscopy?
Because colon cancer is one of the most deadly types of the disease, the majority of colonoscopies are preventative procedures to screen for any signs or symptoms of colon cancer. However, there are other reasons to have a colonoscopy such as:
- Blood in the stool
- Excessive diarrhea
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Change in bowel habits
- Abnormality found on X-ray or CT scan
How frequent you should undergo a colonoscopy depends significantly on your personal and family health history, as well as the results of past colonoscopies. Most doctors recommend having a colonoscopy starting at age 50 and every ten years after that. This the typical schedule even if you have no history of cancer in your family and the results of your first examination are clean. Be sure to consult with your doctor on how frequently you should have a colonoscopy as it will vary from person to person.
What Happens During the Procedure?
It’s common to have questions about the process (especially if you’ve never had a colonoscopy before). The entire procedure lasts anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes. After administering sedative medication to help you feel relaxed, you will lie on your life side of the examining table while a highly experienced colonoscopist administers the procedure.
Using a long, flexible, tube-like instrument ½ inch in diameter called a colonoscope, the doctor will insert the instrument into the rectum and move it through the colon, all the way to the end of the large intestine. The doctor may occasionally ask you to change positions to help him or her move the scope. Along with using a camera to examine the lining of the colon, the colonscope also blows air to expand the colon, allowing the doctor to view sections more clearly for more accurate inspection.
After reaching the end, the doctor will then slowly remove the tube while carefully examining the bowel. If the doctor sees anything suspicious or abnormal, he or she can take a sample of the tissue known as a biopsy for further examination.
What Happens After?
After the procedure, you will remain in the recovery room for 30 minutes so the doctor can observe you and ensure there aren’t any complications. Some common side effects include cramping, or a feeling of discomfort like you have gas, but these will go away fairly quickly.
Although extremely rare, there is a chance of more severe complications. Call your doctor right away if you experience prolonged and large amounts of rectal bleeding, severe abdominal pain, or fever.
After returning home, you may also resume your regular diet. As mentioned before, you are required to have a ride home, and it’s advised that you not drive or operate heavy machinery for at least 8 hours after the procedure to allow for the sedatives to completely wear off.
Because colon cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related death in the U.S., it is crucial for both men and women to schedule a routine colonoscopy to protect their health. Contact Bradley Rieders, MD and Gautam Reddy, MD and the team at Gastro Care LI to schedule an appointment with us by calling (516) 265-7049 today.