Of all the medical procedures, colonoscopy is perhaps the one that makes people doubt the most. While testing can be an uncomfortable concept, it could save your life.
Colon cancer is a relatively treatable disease when you and your doctor find it early, and this procedure is the best way to find colorectal cancer early. People whose colon cancer was diagnosed by colonoscopy have better results and a much lower death rate.
Taking the time to understand this important procedure and its possible role in extending your life really pays off.
What is a colonoscopy
This outpatient procedure is an examination of the inside of the large intestine. A long, flexible camera called a colonoscope is inserted into the rectum, allowing doctors to see inside and check the health of the intestine.
The entire procedure generally takes between 30 and 60 minutes. The procedure will usually be performed by a gastroenterologist who has received special training in colonoscopy.
Before the procedure begins, you are usually given medications to relieve pain and make you sleepy. This sedation makes the procedure easier to endure for many patients.
For those who want it, it may be possible to undergo deeper sedation or even anesthesia. If the procedure makes you extremely anxious and sedation medications aren't enough, it's worth considering this and talking to your doctor.
Medications given before the procedure can keep you from feeling great, but some people may experience mild cramps. A great way to combat this discomfort is to practice some deep breathing exercises.
If the test reveals anything abnormal, the doctor may perform a biopsy. This is where the doctor removes small amounts of tissue so it can be analyzed. When abnormal growths or polyps are found, the doctor can remove them. This will save you from having a second procedure at a later date.
Preparing for a colonoscopy
As with any medical procedure, it is always important to inform your doctor of any health conditions you have. Your doctor should be especially aware of the following things:
· You are pregnant
· Do you have diabetes
· If you have a heart or lung condition
· You are allergic to any medications
· Have a blood clotting disorder
· What medications are you currently taking
In some cases, your doctor may want you to take antibiotics before the procedure.
It's also important to communicate with your doctor about how you feel about the procedure, especially if you have anxiety. Talking about your concerns with your doctor can help you minimize your fear and discomfort.
It may be necessary to restrict the intake of certain foods and liquids before the procedure. You may be asked to limit or eliminate solid foods altogether a few days before.
A key point of preparation for this test is cleansing the intestine. In order for doctors to clearly see the inside of your colon for abnormalities, it must be empty. To accomplish this, you may be asked to take laxatives or take a special preparation to help you empty it.
You may have heard that this process is quite uncomfortable, but it's actually not as bad as many think it is. It is a smart decision to have a colon cleanse prior to this procedure. You will also receive enemas before to further cleanse the inside of the intestine.
Physically preparing for the procedure is only one part of successful preparation. You also need to prepare yourself mentally. Taking time to calm your anxiety about the procedure may result in a better experience.
You can try some breathing techniques, aromatherapy with essential oils, meditation, or other techniques to reduce stress. Going into the procedure with less stress and anxiety will go a long way. Being tense can make it more difficult, so try to relax as much as possible.
What happens after a colonoscopy?
After the procedure, you shouldn't feel pain, but you may experience a sensation of gas or cramps.
Due to the sedatives, you will have to arrange for someone to drive you home later. You may feel a bit drained for much of the day and it will not be safe for you to drive a motor vehicle.
If your doctor removed polyps or took biopsies, there may be a temporary adjustment to your medications. Generally, you will be able to resume your typical diet immediately after the procedure.
Complications are rare, but as with any procedure, they are possible. Possible complications include bleeding and even puncture of the colon. It is very important to contact your doctor if you experience:
· Prolonged or excessive bleeding from the rectum
· Severe stomach pain
· Fever or chills
Why is colonoscopy important?
Early detection of colon cancer is extremely important. Early-stage colorectal cancer has a much lower mortality rate and a better overall prognosis. There are several symptoms of colon cancer, especially in later stages, but the best way to detect it early is a colonoscopy.
If you notice any symptoms of this cancer, it is always good to mention them to your doctor. This could lead to you having the procedure earlier than planned to see if symptoms are caused by colorectal cancer or another condition.
A study of 25,000 patients found that colonoscopies were associated with a 61 percent reduction in mortality from colorectal cancer. That statistic is too significant to ignore. Colonoscopy saves lives.
According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), the overall 5-year survival rate for colorectal cancer is 64 percent. That said, the survival rate when cancer is found early is 90 percent.
Colonoscopies are the best way to find cancer early, ultimately making it more likely that you will survive this form of cancer.
Colorectal cancer is quite common and can run in several members of a family. When you have a family history of this type of cancer, your risk doubles. Family history also affects when you should get tested.
When a first-degree relative experiences colorectal cancer, you should begin annual colonoscopies once you are 10 years younger than your relative was at the time of diagnosis.
For most, the recommended age to get this test for the first time is 50, but people with a family history will often need to be tested at a younger age.
Other things to consider at a colonoscopy
Colonoscopies can save your life by helping to detect colorectal cancer at an early stage. The procedure can also alert you to precancerous growths or signs or other non-cancer intestinal problems.
The procedure can show evidence of other health conditions such as inflammatory bowel diseases, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulosis, or parasites.
Prevent colorectal cancer
Early detection of colorectal cancer results in a better prognosis. But there are also steps you can take to help prevent cancer in the first place. If you have a family history or other risk factors, taking positive steps toward prevention can be especially important.
There is significant evidence that diet plays an important role in cancer. Studies show that about 5% of cancer cases arise directly from unhealthy diets.
This number is small enough to take into account that eating a healthy diet does not mean complete immunity to cancer either. However, it suggests that eating right will definitely help you.
In addition to making sure you're eating right, make sure you're consuming a full variety of vegetables and whole grains. Also try to get enough exercise and take care of your mental health.
All of these positive steps can help you prevent cancer. This, along with undergoing regular screening tests, including yearly colonoscopies, will lead to a better prognosis and probably a longer life.
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