If you're in your senior years, have a family history of colon cancer, or you're having symptoms of a digestive disorder, your physician may order a colonoscopy. This medical test allows the doctor to see inside your colon with a scope to look for signs of cancer and other medical conditions. Here are a few things you might want to know about having this medical procedure.
You Are Sedated During a Colonoscopy
This procedure may sound uncomfortable or even painful, but your doctor provides IV sedation so you are relaxed throughout the whole experience. The sedation might even make the time go faster, and you might not remember much about having the test done. However, you'll remain conscious. You won't be put to sleep as if you had a general anesthetic.
The Doctor Looks For All Types Of Polyps
The purpose of a colonoscopy is to find polyps if they're present and remove them if possible. The doctor removes polyps because colon cancer often starts out as a polyp. However, not all polyps are cancerous. There are two basic types of polyps: flat and polyps on a stalk. The flat polyps are often more difficult to find and remove. It's possible your doctor may refer you to a specialist for the removal of flat polyps that are too difficult to remove during a colonoscopy.
If polyps are found and removed, the doctor sends them to a lab to be biopsied, so you won't know the results right away. The lab biopsy will show if the polyps were noncancerous, precancerous, or cancerous.
It's Important To Clean Your Colon First
Your doctor instructs you on how to clean your colon before your colonoscopy is done. It's important to follow your doctor's instructions carefully so the doctor can see the lining of your colon well enough to find and remove polyps. You'll probably need to follow a special diet starting a few days before the procedure and not eat or drink a few hours before the test is done.
Your doctor may also want you to take a bowel prep product you can buy from a drugstore that triggers diarrhea so your bowels empty out as much as possible. There are a few bowel prep products to choose from, so your doctor may give you a choice based on what sounds easy for you to drink.
After you've had your first colonoscopy, your doctor will let you know when you should repeat it. You might wait several years or you might need a repeat test sooner. It depends on the results of your first test, your age, and your risk level of developing cancer.
Contact a medical professional to learn more about colonoscopies.