A colonoscopy is a minimally invasive endoscopic procedure that allows your doctor to look at the inner lining your large intestine (rectum or colon). The physician uses a colonoscope; a thin flexible tube which helps find ulcers, tumors, polyps, inflammation or areas of bleeding. Biopsies, or tissue samples, can be taken during a colonoscopy and abnormal growths can be taken out. Colonoscopies are mainly used as a screening test for cancer or precancerous growths (polyps).
A colonoscopy is recommended for people 45 and older, and for those who have a family history of colon cancer. Screening for polyps or abnormal growths can significantly decrease your chances of colon cancer. Those who are diagnosed at early stages have a 90% chance of surviving.
The U.S. MultiSociety Task Force (MSTF) on Colorectal Cancer suggests CRC screening in average-risk individuals ages 45-49. This recommendation is a strong endorsement to the May 2021 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force decision to lower the screening age to 45.
The task force also reiterates its recommendations from 2017:
For most, this is the most dreaded part of the exam. Typically, you won’t be able to eat solid foods the day before the exam. Liquids may be limited to plain water, tea or broth. In addition to dietary changes, your doctor may prescribe a laxative. These are to be taken as directed. To empty your colon further, you may need to use an over-the-counter enema kit either the night before the exam or the morning of. Lastly, adjustments to medications play a crucial role in colonoscopy preparation. We suggest reminding a physician at least one week before the exam of any medications you are on. Aspirins or other blood thinning medications may need to be altered prior to the exam.
Right before the colonoscopy, you will receive medication to help you relax, make you sleepy, and minimize discomfort. You will lie on your left side or back during the exam. From here, the colonoscope will be placed in the rectum, allowing the doctor to observe the colon. Traditionally, the cameras used only covered one-hundred and seventy degrees of vision into the large intestine, but in a recently shot video for the GANJ website, Dr. Boxer has expressed the group’s excitement over the acquisition of the Fuse Endoscopy System. This duel camera system allows our physicians to see three-hundred and thirty degrees around the large intestine. The total time of examination should span twenty to thirty minutes. Upon completion, your doctor will tell you if any further testing is necessary. Should the colonoscopy show something abnormal, a biopsy may be taken for further testing, or the abnormal growth will be removed entirely, causing no pain.
You will be sent home from the procedure after most of the effects have worn off. Someone must accompany you home from the office because of the medications used during the examination. You should not drive, operate machinery, or make legal decisions the day of the procedure. Some patients may experience bloating or more than normal gas. This is completely normal and is a result of the physician pumping air into the large intestine in order to get a better view. The doctor can generally inform you of the preliminary results from your test that very day. However, biopsies and further test results may take several days.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, contact us today.