What is a colonoscopy?

Large intestine is also called colon, therefore colonoscopy refers to a test used to view the inner lining of the large intestine.

Colonoscopy is often used as a screening test for colonic or rectal polyps and cancers. Colonic polyps are growths that if left untreated may turn into cancers. If a polyp is found during colonoscopy, it’s usually removed during the same procedure. Colonoscopy is also performed if there are other symptoms (discussed below). Cancer screening tests are done to find any cancerous growths before symptoms appear, as they’re smaller and easier to cure at this stage.

There are several other tests to screen for colon cancer too, however most doctors recommend colonoscopy as the best one.

When should I have colon cancer screening?

Colon screening is recommended to start by age 50. People with a strong family history or certain associated medical issues might be at increased risk of developing colon cancer and should start getting screened at a younger age.

What are other reasons for colonoscopy?

Other than looking for suspected colon cancer, colonoscopy can also be advised in patients with:

  • Blood in stools
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Anaemia
  • Long term unexplained abdominal or rectal pain
  • Abnormal results in any other colon related test
  • History of colon polyps or cancer

What should I do before a colonoscopy?

Your doctor will guide you what to eat or drink and what to avoid before the colonoscopy. Also discuss if you need to temporarily stop any medications that you usually take. Read and understand all the instructions given to you and discuss with your doctor in detail if you have any doubts.

Colonoscopy requires the colon to be clean before the procedure starts. Your doctor will advise you to drink a special medicine that might induce diarrhoea. It’s important to follow the instructions so the colon is clean on the day of colonoscopy. The procedure is easier and more comfortable if the colon is clean, as well as giving a better view of the inner lining of your colon which give more reliable results.

What happens during a colonoscopy?

At the beginning of the procedure, your doctor will make you relax by giving you some medicine followed by inserting a thin tube along with a camera with a light through anus into the rectum and colon. This allows view of the inner lining of the colon.

Depending upon your case, the doctor might take small tissue samples from inside the colon (biopsy) and send them to the pathologist for examination under the microscope for any signs of cancer. The doctor may also clear any growths within the colon during the procedure. The patient doesn't feel the biopsy or growth removal.

What happens after a colonoscopy?

Usually you’ll return to your normal routine after the colonoscopy. However, discuss in detail with your doctor about any lifestyle changes or care needed after the procedure in your case. It’s recommended that you don’t drive or go to work on the same day after the procedure and give your body complete rest along with taking any medications prescribed by the doctor.

When should I call my doctor?

You should consult your doctor if you’re having any abnormal symptoms including:

  • Abdominal pain, worse than routine bloating or cramps
  • Hard and bloated belly
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Lot of bleeding from the anus