Why Get Screened for Colon Cancer?
Screening may find diseases at an early stage, when a doctor has a better chance of treating or preventing the disease. The American College of Gastroenterology recommends screening for colon cancer:
- at age 40 for any person with a first degree relative with colon cancer.
- at age 45 for African Americans because they have an increased risk of developing the disease.
- at age 45 for people who are not at increased risk of the disease.
What is a Colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy is a procedure that uses a long, flexible, narrow tube with a light and tiny camera on one end, called a colonoscope or scope, to look inside the rectum and entire colon. Colonoscopy can show abnormalities of the lining of the large intestine.
Why is a Colonoscopy Performed?
Reasons why colonoscopy is performed include but are not limited to:
- screening for colon cancer
- changes in bowel habits
- abdominal pain
- bleeding from the anus
- weight loss
- family history of colon cancer
What to Expect During a Colonoscopy
Colonoscopies are an easier procedure than many realize. You will be instructed to follow a special diet the day before your procedure and will need to have someone available to take you home afterward. Shortly before the procedure, you will likely be given pain medication and a sedative to minimize discomfort. During the approximately 30-minute procedure, any polyps found will be removed by the doctor and tissue samples will be sent for a biopsy.
What is an Endoscopy?
Your doctor may order an endoscopy to visually examine the upper intestinal tract, the lower intestinal tract and/or the lungs. A gastroenterologist, a general surgeon or a pulmonologist performs endoscopic procedures.
An endoscope is a flexible tube with a lighted camera that allows your doctor to see potential problems without a large incision. It is typically inserted through an opening in the body such as the mouth. A screen in the operating room lets the doctor see exactly what the endoscope sees.
Most endoscopies are outpatient procedures – which means you can go home the same day.
How to Prepare for Your Procedure
Your doctor will give you complete instructions on how to prepare for your endoscopy. Most types of endoscopy require you to fast before the procedure, but your doctor will clarify this.
Prior to the endoscopy, your doctor will do a physical examination and go over your complete medical history, including any prior surgeries.
Be sure to tell your doctor about any medications you’re taking, including over-the-counter drugs and nutritional supplements. You may need to stop taking certain medications if they might affect bleeding.
Alert your doctor about any allergies you might have.
Plan to have someone else to drive you home after the procedure due to the anesthesia.
What to Expect the Day of Your Procedure
Most visits last about three hours depending on the type of procedure. During your visit, our staff will assist you to the pre-op area. We will guide your family and/or friends to our waiting area for 20 – 30 minutes while we get you ready in pre-op area.
Prior to the procedure, patients receive a sedative intravenously (through the vein) that makes them feel drowsy and relaxed. You may have mild discomfort after the procedure, and the anesthesia may take a while to wear off.
It’s wise to take time off work and to avoid making important life decisions until you’re completely recovered.