Why get a colonoscopy?
Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States today. At least one-third of these deaths could be prevented, however, with regular cancer screenings.
A colonoscopy is currently the best test to screen for colorectal cancer, and the American Cancer Society recommends that people age 50 and older get screened every 10 years. If you have an increased risk for the disease, have had colorectal cancer in the past, or have had previous treatments for colon polyps, you may require more frequent testing.
Preparing for a Colonoscopy
Colonoscopy exams are performed on an outpatient basis and generally take less than 30 minutes to complete. Colonoscopy prep will begin the day before your scheduled procedure. Your physician will prescribe a colon-cleansing agent and a restricted diet to clear out any food in the lower digestive tract. Aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) should also be stopped prior to having a colonoscopy to ensure you receive an accurate colonoscopy.
The day of your procedure, you will most likely receive a sedative to help you relax and to minimize any potential discomfort during your procedure. Your physician will explore the full length of your colon while you are lying on your side by gently inserting a narrow colonscope into the rectum and slowly up through the entire colon.
Your physician will view the inside lining of your rectum and colon on a TV monitor to identify any precancerous polyps or cancerous growths. If any abnormal tissue or polyps are found during the procedure, your physician may take a biopsy for further analysis.
After the colonoscopy is complete, you will need a family member or friend to take you home if you received a sedating agent for the procedure. This is an invasive procedure and does carry some risks, including but not limited to, infection, bleeding or perforation of the colon, but the benefits of regular screening far outweigh the risks of the exam.