- What is Colorectal Cancer
- Colon Cancer Symptoms
- Who Should be Screened for Colon Cancer
- How Awful is Colonoscopy Prep
- What Can I Expect During a Colonoscopy
Colorectal cancer is a cancer that occurs in the large intestine (colon and rectum). Cancer develops when cells become abnormal. These cells line the intestinal wall and grow into an uncontrolled mass that turn into growths called polyps. Polyps can start out benign (noncancerous) and can, over time, turn cancerous. During a colonoscopy these polyps can be found, removed, and tested for signs of cancer.
Colorectal cancer is called the silent killer because many times there are no symptoms until the disease progresses. Some people develop symptoms such as a change in bowel habits, blood in the stool, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, stomach pain, bloating or cramps. That’s why being screened is so important.
Anyone 50 or older should be screened for colorectal cancer because the disease usually affects people over 50. However, if there is colon cancer in your family history, a history of polyps in your family, if you have inflammatory bowel disease, screening should happen at an earlier age. Consult your physician if you have these factors because you could be at higher risk.
Everyone hears how awful the preparation is to have a colonoscopy. There are new options being developed all of the time to make the “prep” more palatable. New methods make the preparation a lot easier. Preparing for your colonoscopy is a crucial step in ensuring the best results possible from the procedure.
The colon must be cleansed properly before the procedure. If the colon is not properly emptied, doctors may miss the detection of polyps. A poorly prepared bowel may lead to an incomplete exam and worse, a missed cancer diagnosis. If that happens, the procedure may need to be completed again. Talk to your doctor about the new options that are available for your colonoscopy preparation.
For the colonoscopy, you will lie on your left side on the examining table. You will be given sedation to help you to relax and to keep you comfortable during the exam. The doctor and a nurse will monitor your vital signs, look for any signs of discomfort, and make adjustments as needed.
The doctor will then insert a long, flexible, lighted tube into your rectum and slowly guide it into your colon. The tube is called a colonoscope. The scope transmits an image of the inside of the colon onto a video screen so the doctor can carefully examine the lining of the colon. The scope bends so the doctor can move it around the curves of your colon.
The scope blows air into your colon and inflates it, which helps give the doctor a better view. Most patients do not remember the procedure afterwards.
The doctor can remove most abnormal growths in your colon, like a polyp, which is a growth in the lining of the bowel. Polyps are removed using tiny tools passed through the scope. Most polyps are not cancerous, but they could turn into cancer. Just looking at a polyp is not enough to tell if it is cancerous. The polyps are sent to a lab for testing. By identifying and removing polyps, a colonoscopy likely prevents most cancers from forming.
After the procedure you will rest for an hour or two. There may be bloating or gas which usually subsides during the waiting time. Your doctor will come in and go over the initial results from the exam.