A colonoscopy is a test used to look for signs of cancer in your colon. Your doctor may order this test if you have symptoms such as pain or bleeding. If you're over 50, your doctor may recommend you have a colonoscopy as part of your routine checkup, even if you don't have any symptoms of cancer. This test is very useful because it catches cancer when it's early and easy to remove and cure. If you're scheduled to have a colonoscopy, this is what you can expect.
Preparing For The Test
Preparing your colon for the test is the most unpleasant part of the procedure. However, it's necessary to clean out your colon, so the doctor can see polyps or tumors if they are there. Your doctor will give you medication or advise you on the type of laxative to buy at the drugstore. You'll need to use it the day before the test, so by the next morning, your colon will be empty.
As if taking a laxative isn't bad enough, the one you have to take usually tastes pretty bad too. You can try chilling it or drinking it through a straw to bypass the taste. Even though it may be tough to get down, you need to do it, or your doctor may not be able to complete the colonoscopy successfully.
The Day Of The Test
You'll probably have your colonoscopy done as an outpatient in a clinic or hospital. While you'll get to go home the same day, you should have someone come with you to drive you home, because you may be groggy for several hours. Your doctor will give you medication to relax you, so you may sleep throughout the entire procedure. Since you'll be sedated, you shouldn't feel much pain or anxiety while the colonoscopy is underway. However, you won't be completely knocked out, and you'll be able to respond and follow instructions when needed.
To do a colonoscopy, the doctor passes a scope into your colon. The scope has a light and tiny camera on the end. This allows the doctor to view the lining of your colon on a monitor. If he or she spots a polyp, it can be snipped off at the same time. The doctor can also take a biopsy of any suspicious tissue, and send it to the lab for further testing. If the doctor doesn't find anything abnormal, he or she may recommend you have another colonoscopy in 10 years. If your doctor removes polyps, then you may need to have another colonoscopy in a few months or a few years depending on what the doctor finds.
While a colonoscopy may not sound like a pleasant procedure, it really isn't too bad, and it could even save your life. Be sure to follow your doctor's recommendations for when you should have one, because the frequency depends on your risk factors for developing colon cancer such as age and family history. To learn more, contact the experts at Northwest Gastroenterology Associates.