Colonoscopy Screenings: What You Need To Know

A colonoscopy is a simple procedure that allows your doctor to examine the inner lining of your large intestine, also known as the colon. It's recommended that you have a colonoscopy screening at least once every 10 years starting at age 50. However, many people debate whether they actually need a colonoscopy if they are in good health. Before you decide against having the test completed, there are several things that you need to know about the procedure.

Why are Colonoscopies Important?

Having a colonoscopy helps your doctor detect colon cancer in the early stages so that you can receive proper treatment if necessary. Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths. If colorectal cancer is treated in its early stages, the five-year survival rate is around 90 percent. So, getting a colonoscopy at the recommended intervals is extremely important.

What Happens During a Colonoscopy?

During the procedure your doctor will insert a colonoscope -- a thin, flexible tube with a tiny video camera attached -- through your rectum into your large intestine. The camera allows your doctor to examine your entire colon, looking for ulcers, bleeding, areas of inflammation, and colon polyps or tumors that could become cancerous. If abnormalities, polyps, or tumors are found, tissue samples are collected during the procedure and sent to a lab to be tested for cancer.

Preparing for Your Colonoscopy

Preparation for your colonoscopy begins one to two days before the procedure. During prep time, you will stop eating solid foods and drink only clear fluids. In addition to restricting your diet, your doctor will most likely prescribe a prescription laxative solution for you to drink before you colonoscopy to ensure that your bowels are clear for the procedure.

It's common to feel sick to your stomach while drinking the laxative solution because it has a very salty taste. If you have trouble drinking the solution try:

  • Drinking the solution with a straw, putting the end of the straw at the back of your throat to bypass your taste buds.
  • Taking a sip of water or apple juice after you take a drink of the solution to get rid of the taste.
  • Drinking the solution cold instead of at room temperature.

After the Procedure

After the procedure, you may be groggy for a few hours. However, you'll feel normal again pretty quick. If you received a sedative during the test, you won't be able to drive, operate heavy machinery, or make important decisions for at least 24 hours.

It's important to drink a lot of fluids after your colonoscopy to replenish the fluid that you lost during your colon prep. If your doctor didn't remove any tissue from your colon for biopsy, it's likely that you'll be able to eat as soon as you get home. However, if tissue was removed, your doctor may recommend a restricted diet for a brief period of time.

A colonoscopy screening is a routine procedure. If you have any questions or concerns about the procedure, you should speak with professionals like Northwest Gastroenterology Associates as soon as possible.