How often is a colonoscopy recommended? The amount of time that may pass between colonoscopy procedures depends on your risk factors. People with a high risk or family history of colon problems may need yearly or bi-yearly examinations. People with no risk of colon problems may be able to go 5 to 10 years between exams.
What Is a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is an examination of the colon's inner lining. The colon is the part of the large intestine that moves waste to the rectum for expulsion from the body. Doctor's examine the colon's inner lining to search for any problems, such as colon cancer or polyps.
A colonoscopy patient prepares for the procedure by following a liquid diet to cleanse the bowels. The doctor places the patient under anesthesia and inserts a thin tube, known as a colonoscope, into the colon. The tube sends pictures of the colon's inner lining to a screen for examination. The doctor may need to take a tissue sample to biopsy if any suspicious areas show up during the exam.
Why Do I Need a Colonoscopy?
Colonoscopies are important for catching colon cancer in its early stages, when it is still highly treatable. Doctors look for signs of cancer and for growths that may turn cancerous. These growths are usually polyps that need removal, although few polyps have a chance of becoming cancerous. The procedure also looks for other potential problems, such as ulcers, bleeding and swelling, that may be causing gastrointestinal issues.
When Do I Need a Colonoscopy?
Most people need to have their first colonoscopy when they are around 50 years old. People with a high risk of colon problems, especially a family history of colon cancer, may need regular exams throughout their adult life. Anyone who experiences colon problems, regardless of their age, needs to consult their doctor to see if the procedure is warranted.
What Should I Expect From A Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy requires your bowels to be clean, so you will need to go on a liquid diet one to three days before the exam. You may also need to take laxatives before the procedure. When you arrive for your colonoscopy, you will need to change into a hospital gown. The most common position for the procedure is to lie on one side and pull your knees towards your chest.
Colonoscopy patients are usually given pain medication and anesthesia before the procedure. Once you fall asleep, the doctor will insert the colonoscope and proceed with the exam. The process can take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes, depending on whether any problems or polyps are discovered. You will go into recovery after the procedure and may need to remain there for up to two hours after you awake. It may take awhile to fully recover from the medication and most doctors require you to arrange a ride home.
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