The Colonoscopy and Colon Cancer Screening
A colonoscopy is your best defense against colon cancer, and with today’s advanced endoscopy, the procedure is simple, thorough and fast. Screening is critical because by the time symptoms develop, colon, or colorectal cancer may have spread, making it more difficult to treat. It’s estimated that more than half of the 50,000 lives lost to colon cancer in the U.S. each year could be saved with proper screening, and the colonoscopy is the most effective diagnostic procedure available. This form of endoscopy is performed with a colonoscope, a thin, flexible tube equipped with a light and camera. Using this instrument, the physician examines the lining of the colon, or large intestine, looking for polyps in the colon. These are small growths that often occur in the intestine as we age, and that can develop into cancerous tumors.
Understanding the Colonoscopy Procedure
A colonoscopy is typically performed under anesthesia, and thus causes no discomfort. You’ll be given instructions to follow the evening before the colonoscopy procedure that will ensure your intestines are clear, allowing thorough examination. The examination itself only requires about 15 to 30 minutes, though with preparation and recovery time the entire office visit usually takes about two hours. If the physician finds a colon polyp that appears as though it is, or could become cancerous, instruments can be passed through the colonoscope to remove the polyp. Alternatively, a tissue sample, (called a biopsy), can be taken to test for cancer and/or a variety of other conditions. In fact, a colonoscopy may be recommended to diagnose the source of symptoms such as abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, or rectal bleeding.