Colonoscopy involves examining the large intestine by inserting a flexible tube-shaped instrument about the thickness of an index finger (colonoscope) into the rectum. The colonoscope is slowly moved forward through the rectum, and then along the entire large intestine. In certain, strictly defined cases, the colonoscope can be inserted into the terminal segment of the small intestine.

How to prepare for the test?

No special diet is required before a colonoscopy. On the day before the test, you can eat a light breakfast and a lunch consisting of clear soup. Then drink a large volume of liquid, which contains special laxatives. The large intestine will be properly cleansed, making it possible to perform a thorough examination.

It is necessary to inform the doctor about all medications you are taking. Some of them may affect the preparation and conduct of the examination. This includes in particular: aspirin and its derivatives, other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, drugs that affect blood clotting, insulin and also, iron preparations.

How does a colonoscopy proceed?

Colonoscopy is an examination generally well tolerated by patients and rarely causes pain. A feeling of distension, bloating and abdominal cramps may accompany the examination. The doctor may order painkillers and sedatives to help the patient relax and better withstand any discomfort.

During the examination, the patient lies on his or her side or back, and the doctor slowly inserts the colonoscope into the large intestine. While guiding the camera out of the bowel, the appearance of the bowel is assessed and any deviations from normal are noted. A colonoscopy examination generally takes 15 to 60 minutes.

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What happens if the colonoscopy result is abnormal?

If the doctor finds changes in the colon that require further evaluation,
during a colonoscopy, small forceps can be inserted through the camera and tissue samples (sections) can be taken for further analysis.

Collection of sections is performed to diagnose various diseases of the colon, not just cancer. Colonoscopy can also reveal the presence of colon polyps, which in most cases can be removed during the examination.

What are colon polyps and why should they be removed?

Polyps are abnormal, usually benign growths of the mucosa of the large intestine. They can reach sizes of a few millimeters to even a few centimeters. The doctor performing the examination has no way to assess the malignancy of polyps based only on their external appearance.

Therefore, a polyp found should always be removed and submitted for further histopathological examination. Colorectal cancer in most cases develops from a polyp – so removing colorectal polyps is an important part of preventing the development of this disease. Removal of polyps is painless.

What happens after a colonoscopy?

After the examination, the doctor familiarizes the patient with the result. If the patient received painkillers and sedatives during the examination, his reactions and reflexes may be impaired. By the end of the day on which the test was performed, it is not advisable to drive a car or operate moving machinery.

There may also be a sensation of bloating and crampy abdominal pain due to the presence in the intestine of air introduced during the colonoscopy. These discomforts quickly subside.

What can be the complications of colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy and polypectomy are generally safe medical procedures. It is important that they are performed by doctors specially trained and experienced in performing them.

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