Colonoscopy is a screening and diagnostic procedure used to detect and remove precancerous growths in the lower GI (gastrointestinal) tract. It involves the examination of the colon (large intestine, or bowels) and rectum using a thin tube with a camera functionality at the end, and the tube is inserted through the rectum.
A colonoscopy is done for two reasons. It can be for screening purposes, to detect and remove abnormalities such as colorectal polyps (precancerous growths), or for diagnostic purposes, to evaluate gastrointestinal symptoms and come to a diagnosis.
If your doctor recommends a colonoscopy based on your symptoms or due to your age and/or risk factors, you shouldn’t ignore their advice. A colonoscopy may seem like an intimidating procedure, but in reality, it is very comfortable and pain-free – and it can save your life.
Prepping for a Colonoscopy
In order to have an effective colonoscopy, you must empty your lower GI tract completely. This is necessary for the doctor to see every section of the colon, and so polyps are clearly observed and not mistaken for waste debris. This involves doing bowel prep and going on a liquid diet a day or two before the procedure.
There are a variety of bowel prep kits recommended by providers. During your pre-colonoscopy consultation, your doctor will provide you with a bowel prep kit and give you clear instructions on how to use it.
If you have a preexisting condition, such as diabetes, or take medications, your instructions may vary slightly.
Day of the Procedure
On the day of the colonoscopy, you will arrive at the medical facility at the designated time and check-in. You will have a quick checkup, change into a hospital gown, and proceed to the examination room.
You will get a light sedative that will make you close to unconscious. The doctor and nurses will perform the colonoscopy using the thin tube and miniature tools to remove any polyps from your colon. If any polyps are found, they will be sent to a lab for testing.
Note that a colonoscopy is the only main type of health screening that doubles as a preventive measure because the removal of polyps often prevents colon cancer and rectal cancer altogether.
After the colonoscopy is completed, you will be taken to a recovery area where the sedative will wear off gradually. Once you are awake, your doctor will meet with you to discuss the results.
Aftercare Following a Colonoscopy
Due to the sedative used for the procedure, you will need to have a friend or a family member drive you home. The medical facility will not allow a stranger to pick you up and drive you home, so do not assume you can just call a taxi or Uber driver afterward.
You can resume normal activities immediately following a colonoscopy, although rest is recommended for several hours, as the sedative will still be in your system. Patients rarely feel pain or other symptoms during or after the procedure. You can also resume your normal diet and medications.
When Should You Begin Getting Screening Colonoscopies?
According to the American Cancer Society, women and men with an average risk of developing colorectal cancer should follow these guidelines:
- Age 45: Start getting a screening colonoscopy every 10 years through age 75. If any polyps are found, your gastroenterologist may recommend that you have your next one sooner.
- Ages 76 to 85: The decision to be screened should be based on your preference, life expectancy, family history, overall health, and prior screening history.
- Age 85 and older: There is no need to get colonoscopies unless your doctor recommends otherwise.
If you are at a higher risk for colorectal cancer, you should begin colonoscopy screenings earlier and be screened more often. Factors that can increase your likelihood of developing colorectal cancer include:
- A family history of colorectal cancer
- Previous colorectal cancer diagnosis or polyps found in previous screenings
- Inflammatory bowel disease (usually ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
- Previous radiation treatment in the pelvic area
Colonoscopy and Gastroenterology in Wayne County, Ohio
If you have a family history of colon cancer or rectal cancer, or if you’re at the magic age of 45 (or older), schedule a consultation with a trusted gastroenterologist at Bloomington Gastroenterology. We are part of Bloomington Medical Services, which is an affiliate of Wooster Community Hospital Health System.
We specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of issues affecting the digestive system, or gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which spans from the mouth to the rectum.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule a colonoscopy, contact our caring staff today to get started: Call us at (330) 202-5676, or fill out our appointment request form online. If you have any further questions about the gastroenterology services or other healthcare offerings provided at Wooster Community Hospital, call (330) 263-8144. We look forward to hearing from you!