Your colon, or large intestine, plays a vital role in digesting food and preparing waste for removal from your body. Its function is to absorb water, vitamins, and electrolytes after partial digestion from your small intestine. It’s five feet long, home to 100 trillion microbes, and food takes up to 48 hours to process through it. Even if you’ve voided your bowels or had a bad case of diarrhea, your colon still contains stool materials including, minerals, dietary fiber, bacteria, liquid, undigested food, fat, and protein.
When you reach 45, it is critical to get your colon checked because you may be suffering from multiple conditions, including diverticular disease, colitis, abdominal pain, precancerous polyps, and colon cancer (also referred to as colorectal cancer).
If you’re getting this procedure for the first time, you may be nervous, but there’s no reason to be. To put those fears aside, let’s look at some facts about colonoscopies and what you can expect during the procedure.
This outpatient screening detects abnormalities in your colon through your rectum using a flexible instrument called a colonoscope. In addition to using a camera to detect unusual activity, it removes any irregularities that can help treat gastrointestinal problems. It is used when you have symptoms like abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, or any changes in the frequency or quality of your feces.
Here are some facts about the procedure for people getting a colonoscopy the first time:
The idea of something moving through your body and snipping off tissue sounds unpleasant and painful, especially considering where the scope is coming in from. But this is done while under anesthetic and is painless even if something is removed. Feeling bloated or gassy is common afterward, but not pain.
Because stool tests like Cologuard are less invasive, people assume they can produce the same results. At our practice, if we find abnormalities in your fecal matter from a stool test, we need to do a colonoscopy to figure out what’s causing it. Stool tests are helpful but not a replacement.
Preparation for this screening is often considered unpleasant because you have to consume a solution that helps clear your bowels. While the process includes many trips to the bathroom to prepare, other versions of the solution are lower in volume and more palatable to drink.
Many people fear getting these tests because they think it will mean they have cancer. It is more likely if you have no symptoms beforehand that this is simply a formality to eliminate cancer as a possibility. The test is designed to detect and remove any polyps of other tissue that can be harmful, so anything caught early can be eliminated before it does lasting damage.
Before the colonoscopy begins, you will get instructions about two weeks beforehand. It will require a specific diet before the procedure and your bowels empty for the test. This includes foods to avoid (high fiber, corn, nuts, seeds, and popcorn) and your diet days before the test (clear liquids, gelatin, and popsicles). You will also have to consume a solution mentioned earlier, which will act as a laxative to clear your system.
On the screening day, you will initially get a hospital gown and an IV. Next, you receive anesthesia and lie on your left side with your knees folded towards your chest (similar to the fetal position). A small amount of air used may assist in viewing the colon easier, and when the scope is inserted, you may feel mild cramping. While the lining of your bowels is observed, the scope is withdrawn. The process often takes about a half hour but may be longer if anything is removed.
Colonoscopies can seem frightening and embarrassing, but there’s no need to worry, and we’re here to help. If you’re ready for this important screening, make an appointment today with Dr. Mehta and LoneStar Gastroenterology.