Sometime between the ages of 35 and 50, your doctor may recommend that you have a colonoscopy. Having this type of procedure performed at this age is an important part of preventing, diagnosing and treating colon cancer, which tends to strike in an older age group. Colon cancer is a life threatening illness. A colonoscopy will allow the doctor to see directly into the colon and parts of the intestine, so that polyps and tumors can be diagnosed and treated early.
A narrow tube with a lighted camera on the end is inserted into the colon. This is usually done under conscious sedation, so that the patient is comfortable and can be monitored by the doctor. Dietary restrictions need to be followed prior to the procedure so that the colon is clean and easy to see. The doctor may prescribe a laxative and will ask you to drink only clear liquids.
Polyps that are detected need to be removed, because it is very difficult for doctors to differentiate between cancerous and benign tumors. Bowel inflammatory disease and gastrointestinal hemorrhages can be detected with a colonoscopy as well. Prior to this however, doctors will biopsy anything they find suspicious. Certain symptoms will lead a doctor to recommend the test outside of normal preventative testing. A family history of colon cancer may trigger your doctor to prescribe the test. Abdominal pain and the appearance of blood in the stool can be the signs of a serious problem as well; a colonoscopy can quickly let the doctor know if further screening and treatment is needed.
There are complications from a colonoscopy including excessive bleeding or the potential for infection, so following doctor’s orders after the procedure is always recommended. By having the colonoscopy and detecting any problems early, serious or even fatal illnesses can be treated early or prevented all together.