What is a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a medical procedure that is used to find changes or abnormalities in the colon (large intestine) and rectum. While this exam may be intimidating for some, it can play a significant role in the early detection and treatment of colorectal cancer. Here’s what you need to know.
Who Should Have a Colonoscopy?
According to the American Cancer Society, people who are at average risk of developing colorectal cancer should begin screening at age 45. However, screening may not necessarily involve a colonoscopy. Average risk patients may be screened for colorectal cancer by either testing stool or a visual exam of the colon and rectum. People who are expected to live ten years or more and are in good health should have regular colorectal screenings, once every ten years, until the age of 75.
No matter what your age, if you are concerned about colorectal cancer and are unsure of your risk factors, speak with your doctor for advice on how long and how often you should continue your colorectal screenings.
Risk Factors of Colorectal Cancer
People who are at high risk of developing colorectal cancer may need to start screening before the age of 45. Someone may be considered high risk if they:
- Have a family or personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps.
- A personal history of inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
- Inherited syndromes such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and Lynch syndrome.
Other risk factors of colorectal cancer may include:
- Being older - while colorectal cancer can be diagnosed at any age, those over 50 are at increased risk.
- Being of African descent - African Americans are at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer than any other race in the United States.
- Poor diet - a high fat, low-fiber diet can increase your risk in developing colorectal cancer
- Living an inactive lifestyle.
- Having diabetes.
- Heavy alcohol use.
While some risk factors are uncontrollable such as your age and race, others can be controlled. From quitting smoking to proper diet and exercise, you can decrease your risk of developing colorectal cancer.
How to Prepare for a Colonoscopy
For an accurate screening, you will need to clean your colon. This requires one or two days of avoiding solid foods, drinking clear fluids, and taking special medication. Your doctor will go over some steps you can take to ensure you are ready for the test.
The test takes place at your doctor’s office or a hospital. You will be administered a mild sedative to help you relax—you will remain conscious during the test. The doctor will insert the colonoscope into the colon and examine the inside. The doctor may take tissue samples and remove strange growths found during the test with small tools. Thanks to the sedative, you likely will not feel anything as this is done.
The test lasts about 45 minutes, and, barring unforeseen circumstances, you should be permitted to return home an hour or two after it is over. Avoid alcohol and drink plenty of water while recovering. It is unsafe for you to drive for 24 hours after taking a sedative, so have someone ready to drive you home.
Have Your Colonoscopy at KMC
At Kirby Medical Center, our specialists are certified and highly qualified to perform your colonoscopy. We off a full range of diagnostic services, and we’ll help you adequately prepare for your procedure. Our goal is to put you at ease and to make you feel as comfortable as possible. Call your Primary Care Provider to schedule an appointment. If you are a patient of Kirby Medical Group, please call 217-762-6241.