Colonoscopy is a medical procedure recommended by doctors as a screening test for colorectal cancer. It involves the examination of the lining of your colon or large intestine for any signs of abnormalities.  This is done through the insertion of a thin flexible tube – called a colonoscope – into the anus, slowly advancing into the rectum and colon. A colonoscope is an instrument as thick as a finger, with its own lens and light source allowing the doctor to view images on a video monitor.

Why is a colonoscopy needed?

Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the US. Approximately 150,000 new cases are diagnosed and 50,000 people die from the disease each year.  Early screening and increased awareness would save an estimated 30,000 lives annually. Follow your doctor’s advice if he or she recommends you to undergo colonoscopy.

What needs to be done before colonoscopy?

A day before the procedure, your doctor may advice you to limit consumption to clear liquids only. A special oral laxatives or a special cleansing solution may be prescribed to you as part of a cleansing routine because the colon must be completely clean in order for the procedure to be accurate and comprehensive.  

What happens during colonoscopy?

The doctor may make you lie on your side or back as he or she advances the colonoscope along your large intestine to examine the lining. He or she may repeat the examination as the instrument is being withdrawn. Colonoscopy rarely causes much pain, but your doctor may give you a sedative or painkiller to help you relax and better tolerate any discomfort such as bloating, cramping, or pressure during the procedure.

What should be expected after colonoscopy?

Expect some cramping or bloating because of the air introduced into your colon during the examination. But don’t worry as this should disappear quickly when you pass gas. Some patients feel alert after the procedure but experience impairment in judgement and reflexes the rest of the day. To be safe, have someone drive you home and stay with you especially if you have been given sedatives during the procedure. Specific instructions will be given by your doctor. Make sure you follow these closely.

Colonoscopy is generally safe when performed by trained and experienced doctors. Though, complications after colonoscopy are uncommon, it’s important to recognize early signs of possible complications. If you experience severe abdominal pain, fever and chills, or rectal bleeding even after several days after the procedure, contact your doctor immediately.

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