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When Should I have a Colonoscopy?

Aug 17, 2007
For most people the thought of a colonoscopy conjures up feelings of dread and disgust. The thought of having such an invasive test in such a private area of our body is not very pleasant. A colonoscopy is a medical test that looks inside your colon. The colon is the name for your lower intestine or large intestine. Colonoscopy is done using a colonoscope, which is a flexible, fiber-optic camera.

There are several reasons why your doctor may want to perform a colonoscopy. The most common use of the colonoscopy is screening for colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths. Cancer in the colon usually begins in small masses of cells called polyps.

When the polyps are small and in their beginning stages, there are usually no symptoms that you can detect. But over a period of five to 10 years, these polyps can develop into a cancerous growth. Most people over the age of 50 should have a colonoscopy every five years, regardless of whether they have symptoms are not. By performing a colonoscopy, your doctor can locate and remove any polyps that are growing in your large intestine.

Colonoscopies are useful in finding other diseases of the colon as well. If you've noticed any rectal bleeding or blood in your stool, the doctor can use the colonoscopy to determine the cause of the bleeding as well as its precise location. A colonoscope is often equipped with a small laser that can be used to repair any site that is bleeding.

Your doctor may also recommend the colonoscopy if you report other colon-related symptoms, like a change in your bowel movement habits or weight loss that can't be explained by your diet. Essentially, you should have a colonoscopy if you or your doctor suspect that any disease, inflammation or abnormality exists in your colon. In most cases, the colonoscopy will be able to find any abnormalities in your colon or determine that no abnormalities are present.

Are there any risks to having a colonoscopy? Any medical procedure has some risk, and the colonoscopy is no exception. During the test, air will be used to inflate your colon to allow better visibility by the doctor. The are can cause cramps and swelling of your abdomen. But once the test is over and the air escapes, pain and swelling should subside. If your doctor does discover a polyp during the course of the colonoscopy, he may remove a small sample for a biopsy. This tissue removal could cause you to have a small amount of blood in your stool shortly after the test.

Although the chances are very small, there is the possibility that the colonoscopy could cause injury to your intestinal wall. Finally, one of the risks of a colonoscopy is that there's no guarantee it will find a problem, even if one exists.

There is no doubt that you will probably experience some discomfort during the colonoscopy. The degree of your discomfort depends to some extent on the experience and skill of the colonoscope operator. The higher your level of anxiety, the more difficult it may be to perform the colonoscopy. To make sure that you're as calm as possible, your doctor will probably offer you some sedatives which will keep you relaxed, but not asleep. The colonoscopy will be performed with you lying on your left side. In order to obtain maximum visibility, the operator may ask you to shift from time to time.

Even though the colonoscopy may seem quite uncomfortable, it's an important procedure that you should have. This is especially to rue if you have greater risk factors for colon cancer. The key to avoiding the dangers of colon cancer is early detection. A regularly scheduled colonoscopy could truly be the difference between life and death.

As part of the preparation for colonoscopy, your intestines should be completely emptied. Your doctor will probably prescribe some sort of liquid diet, laxatives or enemas. However, these methods are a harsh and uncomfortable way to accomplish complete colon cleansing. You may wish to ask your doctor if the use of a natural colon cleanse or colonic is allowed. Even if you need to continue with prescribed medications, a regular colon cleanse in the weeks and months prior to your colonoscopy should make your preparation easier.
About the Author
Jim McDonald is a passionate writer and webmaster of http://www.colon-cleaners.com, an informative website about colon cleansing and how a colon cleanse can help you solve lots of digestive problems.
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