A colonoscopy is a regular procedure that helps identify colon polyps, tumors, ulcers and any areas that are inflamed or bleeding inside your colon. In this procedure, a colonoscope is inserted through the rectum and allows your doctor to see the lining of your entire colon. The colonoscope is also connected to a video camera and display monitor so the doctor can closely examine the inside of the colon.
If a small colon polyp is found, your doctor may remove it. Polyps, even those that are not cancerous, can eventually become cancerous. For this reason, they are usually removed. This is done by passing a wire loop through the colonoscope to cut the polyp from the wall of the colon with an electrical current. The polyp can then be sent to a lab to be checked under a microscope to see if it has any areas that have changed into cancer.
If your doctor sees a large polyp or tumor or anything else abnormal, a biopsy will be done. In this procedure, a small piece of tissue is taken out through the colonoscope. Examination of the tissue can help determine if it is a cancer, a benign (non-cancerous) growth, or a result of inflammation.
There are rarely any complications associated with having a colonoscopy. However, as with any procedure, there are some risks. The most common colonoscopy side effects are temporary cramping and swelling. If a colon polyp is removed during your colonoscopy, you may also see small amounts of blood in your bowel movements for a few days after your colonoscopy procedure. It’s important that you go over the risks and complications associated with colonoscopy screenings with your doctor before your procedure.
At GSI, we always use the most advanced sterilization techniques to help prevent infection for all of our colonoscopies in Richmond, VA. Our physicians thoroughly sterilize to keep up the 0.0% infection rate we’ve had from the colonoscopy procedures we have conducted.Request Your Colonoscopy Screening Here
When to Get a Colonoscopy
Typically, most people have their first colonoscopy exams at age 50 when they are at a higher risk for colon cancer. However, if you have a family history of colon cancer, inflammatory bowel diseases or polyps, you should have your first exam before age 50. If you experience any colorectal symptoms, you should have a colonoscopy immediately.
If you do have a family history of colon cancer, inflammatory bowel diseases or polyps, it’s recommended that you have your first colonoscopy at least 10 years younger than the age of your family member with colon cancer. Other factors can lower the recommended age for your first colonoscopy. Learn more about factors that affect when to get your first colonoscopy.
There are alternatives to colonoscopies that can identify issues with your colon. These alternatives require less preparation, however, they all provide different types of information. Some other colonoscopy alternatives include:
- X-rays: These can outline irregularities of your bowel wall by using a liquid called barium that is inserted into your colon through the rectum.
- Alternative endoscopies: These include ColoGuard, push endoscopies, virtual endoscopies and balloon endoscopies.
- Sigmoidoscopies: This is the closest examination to a colonoscopy but with a smaller tube. This test can provide useful information but cannot detect abnormalities in other areas of your colon aside from the sigmoid colon.
These alternatives to colonoscopies are appealing due to the lower cost, minimal preparation and less discomfort. However, all of these options are not as effective or accurate in identifying colorectal diseases and issues.
If you’re not sure whether a colonoscopy or any of these alternatives are right for you, contact one of our specialists today to get an expert opinion.
Colonoscopy Prep Options
If you have a colonoscopy, you will need to follow a clear-liquid diet and take laxatives the day before the test to clean your colon so no stool will block the view.
A colonoscopy can be uncomfortable. To avoid this, you will be given an anesthesia medication through a vein to make you feel relaxed and sleepy during the procedure. A colonoscopy may be done in a hospital outpatient department or ambulatory care center and usually takes 15 to 30 minutes, although it may take longer if polyp removal is involved.