Colon cancer will be responsible for an estimated 51,000 deaths in the United States this year, but with regular colonoscopys, that number could be significantly reduced.
The Colonoscopy Procedure
During the colonoscopy procedure the physician will insert a thin, flexible tube called a colonscope (koh-LON-oh-skope) into the rectum and slowly guide it through the colon. The procedure can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes.
A small video camera is attached to the colonscope, which transmits images of the inside of the colon onto a monitor allowing the physician to carefully examine the colon lining. Patients will start the procedure on their left side and may be asked to occasionally change position to ensure complete exposure of the entire colon. Air may also be inserted through the colonscope, which opens the folds of the colon to allow for better visibility
If the physician finds anything unusual in the colon, such as a polyp or inflamed tissue, a biopsy that removes a small piece of the affected area will be removed and sent to the lab for testing. If there is bleeding in the colon, the physician can inject special medicines or pass a heater or electrical probe through the scope to stop the blood loss.
Bleeding and puncture of the colon are possible complications of a colonoscopy, however, such complications are uncommon.
Preparing for Your Colonoscopy Appointment
For a complete and thorough examination of the colon it is very important that it is completely empty prior to colonoscopy.
For proper bowel cleansing, please refer to the preparation instructions that you were given or see below in case of lost instructions:
After checking in with the receptionist, you will be guided to your exam room and then asked to undress and wear a patient gown. A nurse will discuss medical history, take your temperature, pulse, and blood pressure, and will insert an IV (intravenous catheter) in your arm to deliver medication. Please let the nurse know of any medications you may be allergic to as well as who will be driving you home after your procedure. Before the procedure begins you will be asked to sign a consent form authorizing the physician to perform the exam.
Each individual step of the procedure will be explained to you by the physician. Dentures may remain in place however eyeglasses must be removed. Before inserting the colonscope, the physician will examine the rectum with a gloved, lubricated finger. Once the scope has entered the colon patients may feel some cramping or gas due to the air that has been inserted. Breathing deeply and slowly will help you relax during this process.
After Your Colonoscopy Appointment
After the procedure is complete, you will be observed closely by the nurses until you are awake. Abdominal bloating may still be present and will dissipate as the trapped air is expelled. Many people do not recall any part of the procedure because of the sedative medication. Before leaving, the physician will speak with you about the procedure and notify you of any significant details. Once the nurses have assessed your condition and decide you are ready to leave, you will be released to your designated transportation person.
You may eat and resume normal activities as soon as you feel able, unless otherwise instructed. If uncomfortable gas remains, try walking, a warm bath, drinking warm fluids, or lying on your left side with knees drawn up to help pass any air trapped in your colon.
It is extremely important that you DO NOT:
- drive or operate mechanical equipment until the next day
- drink alcohol for 24 hours after your procedure
The physician will discuss any preliminary findings with you once you are awake and a full report will be sent to your personal physician.
Biopsy and polyp results are usually available in 7-10 working days. At discharge you will be told how you will receive your results and your personal physician will receive a report from the laboratory.