A colonoscopy is a procedure that allows your doctor to look inside your large intestines, including your rectum and colon. To get a clear image of the inside of your large intestines, a trained specialist must use a colonoscope– a long, thin, flexible tube with a camera and light at one end. These images help identify potential areas of inflammation and irritation, swelling, bleeding, colon polyps, tumors, or ulcers.
The large intestines, also known as the large bowel, are part of the digestive system where food is processed into feces. Approximately 1.5 meters in length, the large intestines are actually shorter than the small intestines, but considerably thicker, giving the large intestines its name. A colonoscopy ranges between 1.25 meters and 1.83 meters, allowing you to take pictures or video of the entire large intestines, and sometimes the lower part of the small intestines.
When To Get A Colonoscopy
If you do not have any health problems or other conditions that make you more likely to develop colon or rectal cancer, most doctors recommend regular colonoscopy screenings begin at age 50. In addition to screening for colon cancer, a doctor may recommend a colonoscopy for the following symptoms:
Abrupt changes in your bowel activity. If you have noticed any irregularities in your bowel movements, talk to your doctor about proper testing.
Preparing For A Colonoscopy
To prepare for your colon to be cleaned and checked for cancer, it must be emptied. Your doctor may ask you to follow a special diet that does not allow any substantial or solid food. Taking laxatives, in either pill or liquid form, may help clean your colon of impurities. Using an enema kit is always recommended, and adjusting your medications to fit the dietary requirements of a colonoscopy is necessary.
Colonoscopies usually take between half an hour to one hour. You will be sedated mildly during the procedure. Cramping and bloating may occur during the first hour after the procedure is finished. The sedative will wear off between one and two hours. On rare occasions the colonoscope can puncture the colon or rectum’s wall, causing a perforation to occur. This can turn into a serious complication requiring surgical repair. If you are concerned about this risk, talk to your doctor about this particular complication.
Complications When Prepping For Your Colonoscopy
Barium Enemas: If you have had a barium enema within one week of your colonoscopy, the barium can impede or block your doctor’s view of your colon.
- Insufficient Colon Prep: If you prep your colon improperly for a colonoscopy, it could cause you to still have stool in your colon. If your doctor finds this to be the case, he or she will reschedule your colonoscopy and explain the correct preparations to you.
- Iron Supplements: Taking iron supplements is also not recommended because it can make your stool black and make cleaning out your colon difficult for the health professionals doing so. Do not take iron supplements several days before your colonoscopy.
- Red or Purple Fluids and Foods: Drinking red or purple fluids (such as wine or grape juice) Eating red or purple foods (like fruit and gelatin) will impede the effectiveness of your colonoscopy.
You may need to remain at the clinic for one to two hours; less time if you have someone driving you home. Your doctor will let you know when it is appropriate for you to go back to your usual diet and resume your usual physical activities. Usually, there aren’t many side effects after a colonoscopy, but bloating, gassiness, and abdominal pain are sometimes experienced after a colonoscopy. Although the procedure is safe, there is a one in one thousand chance that the colonoscope will tear or perforate the walls of the colon or rectum. Drinking a lot of fluid after the test is necessary; you need to replace the fluids you may have lost during the colon prep. However, you should not under any circumstances drink alcohol.
If you experience any of the following symptoms after a colonoscopy, call your doctor immediately. These symptoms include:
- Belly Pain
- Heavy Rectal Bleeding
- Swollen and Firm Belly
Since a colonoscopy allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your rectum and colon (or large intestine), usually your doctor will collect a sample of your colon tissue and send it to a pathology lab, where it will be examined for cancer and other debilitating diseases. Other samples of your colon tissues will be sent to a microbiology lab to check for possible infections.
Your colonoscopy results may be available immediately after the procedure, or may take two to four days to be ready. Test results for particular infections will be ready within several weeks.
It is recommended for every adult older than the age of fifty to get routinely screened for colon cancer. A colonoscopy is the safest, fastest way for you to get this done. Take care of yourself and get tested.
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