A colonoscopy is a detailed examination of the colon (large bowel) using a special instrument called a colonoscope.
What is a Colonoscopy?
For this examination, your doctor will insert a thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope into your rectum and advance the ‘scope until the entire colon is seen. The examination is carried out under monitored anesthesia so that it is safe and painless. The colonoscope is equipped with video technology allowing your gastroenterologist to clearly visualize the entire length of your colon on a monitor. A clear view of the colon lining allows the doctor to detect growths, areas of inflammation or other abnormalities.
There are several reasons why your physician at Concorde Gastroenterology may have recommended a colonoscopy. Screening examinations are recommended for those over 50 years and for those at higher risk for colon cancer, such as those with a family history of colon cancer or those with longstanding ulcerative colitis. On the other hand, you may require a diagnostic exam in order to evaluate symptoms such as blood in your stool or chronic diarrhea.
Concorde Gastroenterology strongly supports regular screening colonoscopies in order to prevent colon cancer and save lives. The primary purpose of a screening colonoscopy is to find and remove small growths called polyps. The vast majority of polyps removed during a colonoscopy are benign. Benign polyps may be adenomas, which are classified as pre-cancerous because they have malignant potential. Other types of benign polyps, such as inflammatory or hyperplastic polyps, may be found – these are not pre-cancerous and do not necessarily need to be removed. It is only the adenomas that have malignant potential and should be removed. The colonoscopist can remove these polyps during the procedure. By removing adenomas, the transformation of these polyps into cancer is prevented, thus preventing colon cancer. By preventing colon cancer, colonoscopy has the potential to save lives.
What are the risk factors for Colon Cancer?
- Age over 50
- African-Americans are more likely to develop Colon Cancers at an earlier age. For African- Americans, average risk screening begins at 45.
- Family History of colon cancer – a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, child) with colon cancer increases risk.
- Some gastrointestinal illnesses such as Ulcerative Colitis increase your risk.
The number one reason patients give for putting off colonoscopy is the preparation. There is good news on this front. Colon preparations have greatly improved – they are smaller volume and much more easily tolerated than formerly. For your preparation, your Concorde gastroenterologist will give you a prescription and detailed instructions to follow. It is clear that the better the preparation, the more polyps your physician can find and remove so more colon cancers can be prevented. Your procedure is only as good as your preparation – follow prep instructions closely.
Remember: don’t let fear rule your life and potentially cut it short – one day of preparation is a small price to pay for the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you are doing what it takes to beat colon cancer. Regular screening colonoscopies prevent colon cancer.
Make sure that your doctor is aware of any medications you take regularly. Some medications, like blood thinners, must be stopped prior to your procedure, but only under your doctor’s supervision. Over-the-counter medications such as vitamins and herbal supplements can also affect your procedure, so include them in your medical history.
Day of your procedure
On the day of your scheduled procedure you should arrive at the Kips Bay Endoscopy Center as directed. Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Don’t bring jewelry or other valuables. Make sure to have arranged for someone to sign you out of the facility after the procedure – this is a New York State regulation and cannot be modified. Please remember that although the procedure itself may take only 15 to 20 minutes, total facility time generally averages 2 to 2.5 hours – plan accordingly.
You will be given an anesthetic by the facility anesthesiologist in order for you to be comfortable during your procedure. You will be closely monitored before, during and after the procedure by the anesthesiologist. A colonoscopy is generally well tolerated. Most people will not have any memory of their procedure and usually feel quite well and relaxed afterwards. Follow your doctor’s instructions regarding post-procedure activities. After you are discharged from the facility, you may eat a light, non-greasy meal, but you should avoid alcohol, exercise, driving or operating machinery for the rest of the day.
Your doctor will let you know if follow-up is needed. You should report any abdominal pain, fever and chills, or rectal bleeding to your doctor. If biopsies were taken during your procedure or polyps were removed, pathology results are generally available in several days.