Despite what you may hear in the media, colonoscopy screening is safe and effective. It can detect and remove precancerous polyps, which, over time, could develop into colorectal cancer. It can also diagnose inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis and a condition called diverticulosis (pockets in the intestines) that might increase your risk for colorectal cancer.
A colonoscopy is a screening procedure that can prevent colorectal cancer and identify precancerous polyps (abnormal growths in the large intestine). It’s also used to diagnose and treat gastrointestinal conditions such as diarrhea, constipation, or rectal bleeding.
Doctors in Gastroenterology Of The Rockies Colonoscopy Denver will use a lighted tube called a colonoscope to view the colon and rectum while a person is sedated. Doctors remove adenomatous polyps or early cancers that may develop into colorectal cancer and can also take tissue samples for biopsy.
Routine screening for colorectal cancer should begin at age 45 or 50 for individuals with average risk. Depending on the guidelines you follow, your doctor might recommend using at-home tests instead of a colonoscopy to assess your risk.
Doctors can use a colonoscopy to get a complete view of the colon and rectum. It is generally considered the gold standard for screening because it is less invasive than other methods (e.g., flexible sigmoidoscopy and double-contrast barium enema) and can detect cancerous polyps and other abnormalities.
Before the procedure, a person must follow a liquid diet and take laxatives. These laxatives may come as pills, a powder that dissolves in liquid, or an enema. The doctor inserts a colonoscope through the anus into the rectum and colon. The doctor will use the instrument to take biopsies and remove any suspicious-looking polyps.
Most people will tolerate the procedure, which does not cause much pain. However, a person might feel pressure, bloating, and cramping while the colonoscope is in place.
Preparation for Screening
Colon polyps are slowly growing into colorectal cancer, so screening can help find them before they become cancerous. The screening tests can also find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they grow into tumors. The test begins when you lie on an exam table with your knees pulled up. The doctor inserts a long tube called an endoscope into your colon and rectum. The doctor can see the lining of your colon with this tube and may remove polyps or other tissue with special instruments.
To prepare for a colonoscopy, you may need to follow a liquid diet for a day or two before the exam. You should avoid red liquids like fruit juice or gelatin because their dye can look like blood during the exam. The doctor will probably give you a light or moderate sedative during the procedure. You will need someone to drive you home and stay with you until the sedative wears off. During the exam, you may feel stomach cramping or bloating from the air introduced into your colon.
The gastroenterologist will let you know what they found and if they removed or diagnosed any polyps or cancer. They may be unable to tell you immediately if they had to remove any tissue for biopsy. That’s because it can take a few days to weeks for the results of those tests to return.
Almost all colorectal cancers start as precancerous polyps. Screening can help find those polyps, which can be removed before they become cancer. This can be achieved by reducing the chances of colon cancer and lowering the risk of mortality. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends various methods to screen for colorectal cancer, including stool tests for blood and cancer cells, a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years combined with stool tests, or a colonoscopy every 10 years. The Task Force says a colonoscopy significantly lowers the risk of colorectal cancer and death. In a recent study, people who got a colonoscopy had an 18% lower chance of getting colorectal cancer over 10 years than those who weren’t screened.