It’s the universally dreaded yet so incredibly important medical procedure: colonoscopy. Since so many people are terrified just by the thought of ever having to go through it, colorectal cancers are still widely spread while they could be easily prevented through screening.
Dealing with the fear of colonoscopy and getting informed about it becomes thus extremely important. It can be a lifesaver. So leave those fears aside and make the correct choice for your health.
What Is a Colonoscopy?
To start off, you should firstly know what a colonoscopy truly is. It’s an endoscopic examination of the inner lining of your large intestine, meaning rectum and colon. This medical procedure involves using a thin, flexible tube named colonoscope that serves as a tool to properly look at the colon. To this colonoscope comes attached a camera that is used to take pictures of the large intestine.
How Do I Get Ready for a Colonoscopy?
The procedure can bring some level of discomfort by not only the introducing of the tube itself but also by the preparation that it requires. Before the test you will have to clean out your colon for approximately 1-2 days, which usually requires you to stay at home, stick to a rigid, clear liquid diet and invest some patience into the many trips you will have to take to the bathroom. You might be required to take laxatives to get the best results out of the colon cleansing procedure, which might bring some unwanted effects such as stomach sickness. That’s the reason the preparation part can be just as dreadful as the colonoscopy itself. Plus, not eating solids is usually required even after having had the procedure, to allow time for restoring.
How Does It Feel?
If most patients dread the moment of the colonoscopy itself, they might find some relief in knowing they will be given a pain killer medication and a sedative. It is very probable that you won’t even remember much of the procedure. Also, the polyps removal is something most patients can’t distinguish from happening during the colonoscopy. Nevertheless, stomach cramps are to be expected and even uncomfortable sensations such as the need for passing gas. You will be asked to stay on a diet, avoid solid foods for a short while and stay as hydrated as possible, since the procedure can induce diarrhea or cramps.
Do I Really Need to Take One?
Colonoscopy is an important medical procedure that allows for discovering all sorts of inflammation, ulcers, tumors and cancers that might have developed and generally, all medical conditions that need to be addressed. It is also useful in removing any existing polyps. It is a fast, effective way to screen your colorectal health.
A major study published in New England Journal of Medicine claims that through its strong benefits of detecting and removing polyps, colonoscopy becomes responsible for a strong decrease of colorectal cancers death rate – up to 50% of the cases can be prevented.
If the procedure might seem to be a bit more intrusive and bringing an increased overall discomfort to the patient than any other similar procedures, such as sigmoidoscopy, it is clearly called for in very specific situations where other tests cannot help. Sigmoidoscopy is also used in screening, but it can only cover a limited area, that of the lower part of the colon. Plus, as compared to any other procedure in testing for colorectal cancers and medical conditions, colonoscopy is the only procedure that can be used in actually removing polyps. So, even if you go through any other procedure to identify polyps, you will still have to undergo a colonoscopy to remove them.
How Can I Tell if I Need a Colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy becomes a necessary procedure when you are already at a higher risk of colorectal cancer. However, it is also advisable in case of presenting the following symptoms: rectal bleeding or blood in the stool, dark or black stools, iron deficiency anemia, chronic diarrhea, sudden and unexplained weight loss, inflammatory bowel disease, long-term and unexplained belly pain and discomfort. It is also necessary to do colonoscopy after having received abnormal results from a stool test, CT scan, MRI, barium enema or a virtual colonoscopy.
Colonoscopy is advised to be done every ten years, which is a clear benefit from any other similar procedures that in turn need to be done more frequently. Frequent testing is imposed in cases where polyps have already been found and you have been declared under high risk of cancerous colorectal conditions.