What do you think is the right age to get a colonoscopy? Many experts say that adults who are at risk of developing colon cancer should have a baseline at the age of 50. If the results appear normal then the follow-up colonoscopy is done every 10 years thereafter. Colonoscopy is the test performed to check for cancer in the colon and rectum. It is the most accurate test that allows the doctor to look in the inner lining of the large intestine. It also helps the doctor find ulcers, polyps, tumors and inflammation in the colon and rectum.
Despite a lot of colonoscopies being performed on a regular basis, it is a tough routine. The procedure involves a intense preparation and sedation. It is only performed by trained experts. During the procedure, the surgeon inserts a flexible scope through the anus and used to transfer detailed images on the screen.
Also Read: Anatomy of the Colon and Rectum
Why is colonoscopy done?
The reason why a colonoscopy is done are:
- Diagnose internal symptoms: The doctors check for abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, chronic constipation or any other intestinal problems.
- Screen for colon cancer: If you are at the age of 50 and are at average risk of developing colon cancer. The doctor may recommend a colonoscopy every 10 years or sooner depending on the situation.
- Removing polyps: This procedure also helps in detecting pre-cancerous polyps before they turn into cancer. If during colonoscopy, polyps are found then they are usually removed at the same time.
When do you need a colonoscopy if you are a woman?
Men aren’t the only ones to get cancer in the colon. Women are just as much at risk as men. Colonoscopy reduces the risk of upto 60%. There is nothing to be scared of it as it is a painless procedure. When colorectal cancer is diagnosed in early stage, it can easily be treated and cured. Colonoscopies are more complicated in the case of women. They must get it done at the age of 45 as women report higher levels of colonoscopy anxiety. It should be repeated anywhere from every 10 years to 4 to 5 years depending on the family history and colorectal health.
Preparation for colonoscopy
The doctor may ask you to empty your colon because any residue in the colon may hinder the diagnosis. Therefore, to empty the colon there are certain preparation steps that you need to take:
- Do not eat solid food, drink clear liquids. Avoid red liquids which may be confused with blood during colonoscopy. Do not take anything a few hours before the surgery.
- Doctors may recommend laxatives to clear the colon.
- If you are taking any medicines, the doctor may ask you to stop taking them atleast a week before the surgery, especially in case of high blood pressure, diabetes or heart problems.
What really happens in colonoscopy?
During a colonoscopy, flexible scope with a camera and light on the end is passed through the rectum and into the colon. A small amount of air is used to inflate the colon so that the doctor can see easily. The scope that is inserted inside the colon bends around the curves and gives a complete view to the doctor till the cecum.
If polyps or even its growth are found during diagnosis, the doctor may take a biopsy of the growth for further testing. The polyps are removed at the same time. All this is done after giving sedation, sometimes mild sedative pills. It is given to ease the pain and discomfort during colonoscopy. The complete process takes 30 to 60 minutes.
How to protect yourself from colon cancer?
To prevent yourself from colon cancer, the following steps may help:
- Make lifestyle changes: Quit smoking and limit excess alcohol. Eat fiber-rich food that includes fresh fruits, less fatty foods and avoid processed food. Exercising and maintaining a healthy weight helps a lot.
- Look for the symptoms carefully: Notice if there is any change in the bowel movements such as long-lasting rectal bleeding, dark stools, constipation or diarrhea, abdominal pain or pain during bowel movements. Even anemia and constant fatigue can be a sign of colon cancer.
- There are medicines to reduce the risk of precancerous polyps or colon cancer. Consult a doctor before taking any medicine on your own.
A colonoscopy is negative if there are no abnormalities found and doctors recommend another colonoscopy
- In 1 year if there was some residue in the stool left in the colon that prevented complete examination.
- Within 5 years if you have a history of polyps in the last colonoscopy.
- In 10 years if you are at risk of colon cancer
Alternate methods or less invasive options are available about which you can ask your doctor. Most importantly, given the nature of colonoscopy, it should be performed by specialists. To speak with an expert about colorectal cancer or colonoscopy, contact Pristyn Care clinic.