One of the best defenses against most cancers is early detection. For colon cancer, this is especially vital. Though there are several acceptable methods to test for colorectal cancer, a colonoscopy is the most commonly used one. Not only can it identify rectal and colon cancers, but it can also help find polyps, too. (If not removed or spotted, polyps can eventually develop into cancer.)
If you are currently scheduled to have your first colonoscopy, you might find yourself with a ton of questions, and it’s only natural to have concerns. To help make the process a bit less overwhelming, here’s what you should know before procedure day arrives:
What Exactly is a Colonoscopy?
During this outpatient exam, your doctor will use a flexible, hollow, lighted tube with a tiny video camera to carefully look at the inside of your colon and rectum. The tube, known as a colonoscopy, is gently eased inside the colon and sends pictures to a TV screen. This allows the doctor to look for any polyps or signs of cancer. If tissue samples are needed or polyps are found, they will be able to remove them at this time.
First Step Bowel Prep
Before exam day, you’ll be asked to prep your bowels to have a clean colon for better visibility. The type of prep can vary and may include liquid laxatives, a specific diet, or even enemas. Your doctor will thoroughly explain the prep beforehand and can answer any questions you may have.
What to Expect During Your Colonoscopy
This is a relatively quick procedure, lasting around 30 minutes, in which you’ll be given medication that will allow you to sleep through the process. You will need someone to take you to and from the procedure, and it's best to clear your schedule and rest for days until the drugs have worn off.
What if Something is Found?
As stated earlier on, if something like a polyp is found, it’s likely your doctor will remove it on the spot. If it’s too large or there are signs of cancer, a tissue sample will be taken for biopsy to check for cancer or pre-cancer cells. The results will determine if further testing is needed.
When to Comeback for a Followup
If nothing abnormal is found, a colonoscopy is recommended every ten years, until you reach the age of 75. Ultimately, you’ll want to talk to your healthcare provider about how often you should receive one.
From colonoscopies to women’s health, Henry County Hospital medical staff is here to help you get your health on track. We use state-of-the-art technology and personalized care, and our priority is the patient.