What is Colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy is a medical exam that allows your doctor to see the inner lining of your large intestine (rectum and colon). The doctor uses a thin, flexible tube known as a colonoscope to look at the colon. A colonoscopy helps to find ulcers, colon polyps, tumors, and areas of inflammation or bleeding. During a colonoscopy, tissue samples can be collected and abnormal growths can be taken out. Colonoscopy can also be used as a screening test to check for cancer or precancerous growths in the large intestine or rectum.
The colonoscope is a thin, flexible tube that ranges from 125cm to183cm in length. A small video camera is connected to the colonoscope so that the doctor can take pictures or video of the large intestine (colon). The colonoscope can be used to check the whole colon and the lower part of the small intestine. A test known as sigmoidoscopy displays only the rectum and the lower part of the colon.
Before this test, you will have to clean your colon (colon preparation). Colon preparation takes one to two days, depending on which kind of prep your doctor recommends. Some preparations may be taken in the evening prior to the test. For most people, the preparation is worse than the test. The bowel preparation may be uncomfortable, and you may feel hungry. Plan to stay home during this preparation time because you will need to use the bathroom frequently. The colon preparation causes loose, frequent stools and diarrhea so that your colon will be empty for the test. If you need to drink a special solution as part of your preparation, make sure you have clear fruit juices or soft drinks to take after the preparation because the solution may have a salty or unpleasant taste.
Colonoscopy is one of the various tests that may be used to screen for colorectal cancer. Other tests may include stool tests, sigmoidoscopy, and CT colonography. Which screening test you choose depends on your preference. Discuss with your doctor about what puts you at risk and what test is best for you.
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