Colonoscopy is another form of endoscopy that provides a way for your gastroenterologist to see inside your colon, or large intestine. This painless procedure has been shown to be an excellent way to prevent colon cancer. Most people should get colonoscopies starting at age 50 even if they have no symptoms.
During the procedure, your doctor will slide a flexible tube containing a light and tiny camera through your anus and into your rectum and colon. This tube, called an endoscope, can also carry a small ultrasound device called a transducer. Ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of the inside of your organs.
In order to make sure the colon's tissues are easy to see, you'll begin preparing for your colonoscopy ahead of time by following a clear-liquids diet and drinking a laxative solution that will clear your bowels completely. For many people, this is most unpleasant part of the whole procedure.
Before your colonoscopy begins, you'll take a sedative that makes you sleepy and relaxed, but you won't "go under" as you would for surgery. You may not remember the procedure very well due to the sedative. The sedative also helps relieve discomfort during the colonoscopy.
As your doctor moves the endoscope up through the colon, he or she will closely exam the lining of your colon. This examination can reveal inflammation, sores called ulcers, abnormal growths called polyps, and signs of cancer. In addition to carrying a camera, the endoscope tube includes a channel through which medical instruments can be passed, so your doctor can take tissue samples or remove polyps during your colonoscopy.
After Your Colonoscopy
After the procedure is over, you may have to wait for a little bit for the sedative to wear off before you go home. Because of the sedative, you should be sure to have someone drive you home after the procedure.
Everyone age 50 or older can benefit from regular colonoscopy. If you have a chronic colon problem or a family history of colon cancer, you may need to have colonoscopies more frequently and/or begin at an earlier age so your doctor can monitor your colon’s health.