The most common type of screening for colorectal cancer is a colonoscopy, which is recommended every 10 years. For this test, the doctor uses a long, thin, flexible, video scope to check for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and the colon. Polyps can be found and removed during this procedure.
Most cases of colorectal cancer begin as small, benign clumps of cells, or growths, called adenomatous polyps. Over time, these polyps can become cancerous. Polyps rarely produce symptoms until they become cancer.
Preparing for a Colonoscopy
Before a colonoscopy, the colon must be completely clean for the procedure to be accurate and comprehensive. Preparation for a colonoscopy typically consists of a clear liquid diet the day before the procedure and taking a laxative in the evening and morning as prescribed by your physician.
During a Colonoscopy
During a colonoscopy, your doctor will give sedation to relax and make the procedure comfortable. Here is what you can expect:
- The procedure itself usually takes less than 20 - 25 minutes.
- You will lie on your side - while your doctor slowly advances a colonoscope along your large intestine to examine the inside.
- Your doctor will examine the colon again as the colonoscope is slowly withdrawn.
After a Colonoscopy
You will be monitored until most of the effects of the sedatives have worn off. Your physician will explain the results of the examination to you. If biopsies are performed, those are sent to a laboratory and results are given later.
If you have been given sedatives during the procedure, someone must drive you home and stay with you. Even if you feel alert after the procedure, your judgment and reflexes could be impaired for the rest of the day.
The doctor usually recommends a light meal on arriving home, followed by your usual diet. After any sedation, you should not drive, operate machinery nor make important decisions until the next day. Your doctor will give you post procedure instructions.