- What’s it like to have a colonoscopy?
- How should you prepare for a colonoscopy?
- When should you get a colonoscopy?
The National Institute of Health (NIH) reports that colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in women and men in the U.S. A colonoscopy is a preventative screening test that can detect cancer in the colon before symptoms develop.
Still, the idea of colonoscopy can cause some people to back out of this life-saving screening. Kellye, a patient at Gastroenterology of Southwest Florida, P.A., admits she was embarrassed and worried about scheduling her colonoscopy procedure. After having the procedure she says, “It wasn’t what most people hyped it up to be.” The procedure was much less invasive than she had imagined, and she’s since referred three people to Gastroenterology of Southwest Florida, P.A.
According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. A colonoscopy is a procedure designed to detect the possibility of cancer in the colon before it can become a problem. Colon cancer is one of the deadliest diseases, but with colonoscopy as the tool, colon cancer is also one of the most preventable.
Kellye shares her relief at finally having a preventative colonoscopy procedure, stating “The biggest benefit of having the colonoscopy is knowing everything is ok.” In this, she is exactly right.
The problem with colon cancer, which occurs in one in 23 men and one in 25 women, is that the disease can develop and display no symptoms. When the symptoms of cancer finally show up, the disease is late-stage, harder to treat, and life-threatening.
What’s It Like to Have a Colonoscopy?
Many people feel anxious about having a colonoscopy, and Kellye was no exception.
She said, “Going in I was kind of nervous, anticipating all these things.” During a colonoscopy, a patient is sedated and a long, flexible tube with a camera (a colonoscope) is inserted into the rectum. The camera allows the doctor to gently wind through the colon, looking at every part of the organ to detect any changes or abnormalities.
If the doctor sees an issue, such as a polyp or other type of abnormal tissue, there is a small cutting tool at the end of the colonoscope that can snip the tissue away. Sometimes the polyp is precancerous, but the doctor can snip these away early on before they develop into cancer. A small polyp could take years to turn cancerous, so the best course of action is to remove these growths quickly and painlessly before they turn into a problem.
Your doctor may also schedule a colonoscopy to explore issues related to rectal bleeding, chronic constipation or diarrhea, abdominal pain, or other types of intestinal issues.
Kellye says it’s the peace of mind that comes from having a colonoscopy that is one of the true benefits of having this procedure. Today, she says, “I’m really happy that I did it.”
How Should You Prepare for a Colonoscopy?
Before the colonoscopy, your doctor will prescribe a few steps to follow to prepare for the procedure:
- You will need to avoid solid food the day before the exam and drink only liquids
- You will take a laxative in either a pill or liquid form
- You may use an over-the-counter enema kit to empty your colon
- You may need to make some adjustments to your current medications
During the procedure, you will wear a gown and undergo a mild sedation and possibly an IV pain medication to minimize any discomfort you feel. You will lie on your side on the exam table and the doctor will perform the exam, which takes about 30 to 60-minutes.
It takes about an hour after the procedure to recover from the exam. You’ll need someone to drive you home and you should take the rest of the day off. However, the exam itself is painless – it will probably be one of the best naps you’ve ever had.
Kellye’s experience with her colonoscopy procedure was excellent. She commented that, “Everything is really great here, very professional, and they don’t make you feel like a number. They cared about me from the beginning, middle and end.” She also pointed out, “I recall at the end of the procedure, a couple days after, they were calling me to check-in, and I appreciate that, as well.”
When Should You Get a Colonoscopy?
The American Cancer Society says people with an average risk of colorectal cancer begin a regular screening process at age 45. You are at average risk of colon cancer if you do not have:
- A family history of colorectal cancer
- A personal history of polyps of colorectal cancer
- A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease
- A personal history of getting radiation in the abdomen area
If you do have any of these issues, your doctor may recommend a colonoscopy earlier and/or more frequently. Generally, after age 50 you should have a colonoscopy every 10-years up until 75 or later, depending on your health. If you have a diagnosed condition or the doctor found polyps, the screening should occur every five years, or as required by your doctor.
One important note; check with your insurance carrier to make sure the frequency of your colonoscopy is covered by your plan.
Kellye’s experience with her colonoscopy shouldn’t be surprising, given the high-quality of care found at Gastroenterology of Southwest Florida, P.A. She commented, “The office staff was really great, very professional, and they did really great follow up.” Given her level of anxiety about the colonoscopy procedure itself, it’s a ringing endorsement for the practice that Kellye stated, “I would definitely say to come over and try the doctors here.”