The Basics Behind a Colonoscopy

Thousands of people experience colon-related complications in the UK each year - whether minor inflammations, or more serious conditions like colon cancer. However, there are ways to detect such conditions early, ultimately helping doctors administer appropriate treatment. One such method is through a colonoscopy.

A colonoscopy is a medical procedure - performed with a colonoscope - that allows your doctor to look inside your colon for various symptoms of colon conditions. Some of the most common conditions tested with a colonscopy include: bleeding from the anus, pain in your lower abdomen, inflammation, persistent diarrhoea, or other changes in bowel habits.

It's important to look into such conditions, because they can often signify the presence or development of bowel cancer, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, or diverticula. Bowel cancer is the third most common form of cancer in the UK after breast and lung cancer, with an estimated 36,000 cases diagnosed in the UK each year. However, if bowel cancer is diagnosed and treated early, it is has a high treatment outcome.

Many people get colonoscopies either through feeling symptoms or as a result of something that shows up in an examination. If your doctor suggests a colonoscopy, it does not necessarily mean you have a serious condition - but it's still important to have the procedure done, just to make sure.

Some people become nervous at the prospect of having a colonoscopy done; but the various procedures entailed in a colonoscopy are fairly simple and straightforward, and are usually performed as a day or outpatient case.

Patients are usually given a sedative and a painkiller, and are also sometimes given a muscle relaxant. Once these take effect, a colonoscope is inserted into the anus and up into the colon. A colonoscope is a narrow, tube-like telescope that is equipped with an illumination channel, which sheds light on the lining of your colon during the procedure.

During this procedure, air is usually passed into the colon to make the lining easier for the doctor to see. As the colonoscope is passed through the colon, polyps or tissue samples might need to be removed - a usually-painless procedure carried out by an instrument attached to the colonoscope. A colonoscopy usually takes about 30 to 40 minutes, with the patient given a few hours to rest in the facility where the procedure was carried out.

Sedatives usually take a few hours to start wearing off, so it's always important for patients to be accompanied home by a friend or family member. It's common to feel sleepy, tired, or bloated after a colonoscopy - due to both the administered drugs and trapped wind in the colon. However, these are temporary side effects of the procedure, and should pass fairly quickly.

Results of a colonoscopy are usually available promptly after the procedure. However, if samples need to be sent to a lab, it can take longer.

If you think you might need a colonoscopy, or are experiencing unusual symptoms related to your digestive system, it's crucial to talk to your doctor - colonoscopies can succeed in detecting and treating very serious conditions.
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