Colonoscopy is a procedure that lets your HonorHealth doctor look inside your entire large intestine using a colonoscope, a flexible instrument with a camera and light. The procedure lets your doctor see inflamed tissue, abnormal growths and ulcers.
Your doctor may recommend a colonoscopy for a number of reasons:
- To look for early signs of cancer in the colon and rectum
- To look for causes of unexplained changes in bowel habits
- To evaluate symptoms such as abdominal pain, rectal bleeding and weight loss
- To remove polyps from your colon
You should get your first colonoscopy at 50, unless you have a family history of colorectal cancer. The American College of Gastroenterology recommends that African-Americans begin screenings at age 45 because of a higher risk for colon cancer. Consult with your doctor about testing at an earlier age if that's the case.
How do you prepare for a colonoscopy?
Because a clean colon gives your gastroenterologist greater visibility, your doctor will give you colonoscopy prep instructions.
The day before a colonoscopy, you’ll follow a clear liquid diet. The evening before the colonoscopy, you’ll drink a bowel preparation to clean out the colon. The prep consists of about two liters of a liquid laxative that you drink over several hours. You’ll drink the first dose in the evening and a second dose several hours before your colonoscopy.
How is a colonoscopy performed?
Your colonoscopy will take place in an HonorHealth outpatient setting. The procedure is painless and takes about 30 minutes.
An anesthesiologist or a certified registered nurse anesthetist will sedate you. You'll usually be given medication in a vein to help you relax and feel comfortable. You'll be asleep during the procedure and will wake up in the recovery area.
You'll lie on your left side with your knees drawn up toward your chest.
Your HonorHealth gastroenterologist will perform the colonoscopy by inserting a flexible colonoscope into your entire colon through your rectum.
Your doctor will use carbon dioxide to expand the colon and to decrease the rate of complications, including bloating and distension (ballooning) after the screening. Your doctor also may add additional water into the colon during the procedure to clean it more to help identify polyps or abnormalities. Suction may be used to remove fluid or stool.
Because your gastroenterologist gets a better view as the colonoscope is pulled back out, a more careful examination is done then.
Your doctor may remove polyps with small wire loops called snares, take tissue samples with tiny biopsy forceps and take photographs.
What are the risks associated with colonoscopy?
While risks are rare, they include:
- Perforation of the colon
- Adverse reaction to medications
- Cardiopulmonary complications related to anesthesia or injury to the spleen
What should you expect after your colonoscopy?
- You’ll need to have a family member or friend accompany you to the outpatient facility and wait for you, so he or she can drive you home
- Drink plenty of liquids
- Eat a healthy meal to restore your energy. You should be able to return to your regular activities the next day
- Avoid driving, operating machinery, drinking alcohol and making legal decisions for at least 24 hours after the test
Are polyps tested after the colonoscopy?
Any polyps that are removed will be tested for cancer after the procedure. If cancer is found, your doctor will talk with you about treatment options.
If you have polyps, your gastroenterologist will tell you when your next colonoscopy is due.
If your colonoscopy results are negative, doctors recommend that you get retested every 10 years.