As with any procedure, it’s natural to have questions. Whether this is your first colonoscopy or you’ve had one before, you may be curious to understand more before your upcoming appointment. While our gastroenterologists, Dr. Gholami, are always happy to answer any and all questions that you have about colonoscopies, we’ve also compiled some of the top questions about this screening tool for our patients to better understand the purpose and importance behind getting a colonoscopy.
What is a colonoscopy?
This diagnostic procedure is the best way to examine a person’s large intestines (also known as the colon). It involves inserting a small, flexible tube known as a colonoscope into the rectum and guiding it gently through the colon. This quick, outpatient procedure is performed right here in our office under sedation.
Why are colonoscopies performed?
Colonoscopies make it possible for our gastroenterologist to examine the lining of the large intestines. Colonoscopies may be used to determine the cause of your gastrointestinal symptoms or they can be used purely as a screening tool to prevent colorectal cancer (or to detect cancer early). One of our gastroenterologists may recommend a colonoscopy if you are dealing with,
- Unexpected weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Persistent bowel changes (e.g. diarrhea or constipation)
- Blood in the stool or black stools
During your colonoscopy we can also remove polyps, stop bleeding and take tissue samples for further testing.
When should I start getting routine colonoscopies?
Everyone, regardless of whether they are experiencing symptoms or not, should start visiting their gastroenterologist for routine colonoscopies by the time they turn 50 years old. Those with a family history of colorectal cancer may want to discuss with their gastroenterologist about whether they might benefit from getting screened earlier.
If your colonoscopy results come back normal and you have a low risk for colorectal cancer, then you’ll only need to come in every 10 years for routine colonoscopies until you reach 75 years old.
What are the symptoms of colon cancer?
Since colon cancer doesn’t typically cause symptoms in the very early stages this is why getting a routine colonoscopy is an important screening tool for both men and women as they approach middle age. A colonoscopy is the most effective procedure we have for detecting cancer early on. As colorectal cancer progresses you may experience,
- Rectal bleeding
- Persistent fatigue
- Unexplained and sudden weight loss
- Bowel changes