Do I need a colonoscopy? A stranger sticking a camera up your bum, not the most pleasant thought. Eek, kinda sounds embarrassing too! But for a GI doctor, that’s just part of their daily routine and they perform thousands of these a year. That’s of course not all that they do but looking into your colon is an important way for you doctor to look into your GI health. If you’re nervous or feeling shy, I can assure you that your bum is not likely to be very memorable and I’ll explain why it’s SO important to have one done.
A colonoscopy, as horrifying as it initially sounds, is incredibly valuable in preventing colorectal cancer and also identifying other GI issues. Colorectal Cancer is the cancer of the large intestine – about a third of people with colorectal cancer die from it, but it can be prevented with regular screening. It’s one of those cancers that can hide and grow for years before someone develops any symptoms from it. I unfortunately see this often in my practice, so it’s better to have the screening rather than regrets later.
How Does a Colonoscopy Work?
Before a colonoscopy, you’ll need to clear out your colon. This “Bowel Prep” is often considered the worst part of the whole exam. You’ll typically need to stick to a clear liquid diet and take laxatives the day before the colonoscopy. Be prepared to stay near your bathroom coz you will need to go frequently until everything is coming out almost clear.
During a colonoscopy, the doctor will insert a flexible tube through the rectum and into the colon. This tube, called a colonoscope, shows the doctor an image of the inside of your colon. A small amount of air is pumped into the colon to allow the doctor to see more clearly. The doctor is looking for abnormalities like polyps – which can be an early sign of cancer. If the doctor does find anything abnormal, a biopsy will be performed and, if pre-cancerous, the polyp will be removed.
A colonoscopy doesn’t usually hurt, but you may feel slight discomfort or cramping in your lower stomach during the procedure mostly due to pressure. Typically, you will be given a medication to help you relax during the procedure and sometimes a sedative that creates amnesia so often times you may not remember a thing! Because of this, be sure to bring someone with you to drive you home after the procedure!
When do I need a colonoscopy?
A lot of people think that colonoscopies are only for men, but they’re just as important for women. Doctors suggest screening every 10 years from the age of 50 or sooner if you’re at a higher risk of colorectal cancer or have close family members with colorectal cancer. Be sure to speak to your PCP about your risks and timing of the screening. It’s one of those things that can easily be forgotten or put off for another time, but I can’t stress how important it is not to delay to ensure optimal health.
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