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Colonoscopy is an investigative procedure that helps one observe the colon and rectum.

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It is a type of screening test that helps in the evaluation of gastrointestinal problems, intestinal bleeding as well as cancer.

Let us learn more about this test and get a clear idea regarding what is a colonoscopy?

Overview: Colonoscopy

Colonoscopy is a test that helps in observation of the inner lining of the large intestine and small bowel. It helps in finding the presence of polyps or cancer in the colon or rectum. The doctor can remove polyps that are as small as one millimeter in size.

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These polyps are further studied to find if they are cancerous in nature. This test is recommended for people over 50 years of age and those with a family history of colon polyps or cancer.

Why is Colonoscopy Done?

There are many reasons for which a doctor may recommend a colonoscopy. These include:

  • Investigation of symptoms that cause pain in abdomen, bleeding from the rectum, intestinal problems, etc.
  • To find causes of chronic diarrhea and constipation
  • For screening people over 50 years with high risk of colon cancer.
  • To view the rectum and colon for the presence of polyps, ulcers or Chron’s disease.

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Advantages of Colonoscopy

There are many advantages of colonoscopy provided in the paragraph above. Apart from screening and diagnostic purposes, colonoscopy has other advantages too.

This includes:

  • Colonoscopy is useful for biopsy, that is, taking tissue samples of the large intestine and bowels to check for polyps that may be cancerous in nature.
  • To remove non-cancerous polyps with the help of a wire snare or forecep
  • To stop bleeding in the intestine by injecting medication, clipping or heat treatment of the bleeding site.
  • For inserting a balloon through the endoscope and inflating it inside the colon to get rid of partial blockage or narrowing of the colon.
  • As a follow-up procedure after treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, cancer or polyps.

Risks of Colonoscopy

Colonoscopy has its share of risks, which may occur in extreme cases.

Some of the risks involved with colonoscopy include:

One should note that the chances of these risks occurring are quite low. Not a single death has been reported due to colonoscopy since 2000.

What to Expect During a Colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy is an endoscopic procedure where a flexible tube fitted with a camera on one end is passed through the anus into the large bowel and small bowel. The tube or colonoscope is gently eased inside the colon. This illuminated tube captures images inside the colon and sends them to the screen attached to the other end of the tube. As it is an invasive procedure, one needs to prep up before they undergo the test.

Before the procedure

The colonoscope has to be inserted into the rectum. Therefore, the patient is asked to follow a low fiber and clear-liquid diet (apple juice, broth, water or lemonade, etc.) for at least 3 days. One should inform the doctor beforehand if they are on blood thinners, have any allergies, or is a pregnant woman.

One day before the procedure, the patient is asked to take laxatives to clear the bowels. Stools, if any, present in the bowels, will require rescheduling of the test. Thus, make sure one follows the doctor’s instruction carefully.

During the procedure

On the day of the investigation, one will be given a relaxing sedative intravenously. This will help one overcome any discomfort during the process. One is asked to lie down on their side with knees pulled up towards the chest.

A scope is gently inserted into the anus along with a small amount of air. This helps in widening the colon and give a better view of the walls. As this step is carried out, the heart rate, blood oxygen level as well breathing is monitored continuously. The doctor will quickly carry out a biopsy, remove abnormal tissue or polyp or observe the inner lining of the colon.

After the procedure

The procedure lasts for about 30 minutes to an hour. Once the procedure is done, one will be asked to go home after keeping you under observation for 30 to 60 minutes. As a relaxing medication is injected, avoid driving home yourself. Take the rest of the day off from work.  Have a light meal on the first day after the procedure. One may pass gas and have minor cramping for a day or two.


The doctor will inform you regarding the results. Colonoscopy helps prevent over two thirds of deaths due to colon or rectal cancers.

Colonoscopy is avoided by many patients due to many misconceptions. However, it helps reduce the chances of cancer by 50%. Thus, if you have a family history of colorectal cancer, make sure you undergo colonoscopy for cancer screening.

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: January 26, 2016

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