A colonoscopy is a type of procedure used to detect any abnormalities or changes in the colon (large intestine) or the rectum. According to The American Cancer Society, a colonoscopy is one of the most widely used tests for colon cancer screening because not only can it identify colon and rectal cancers, it can also find cancerous polyps which can be removed before they turn into cancer [1].

See also: Colon Cancer Treatment: Treatment for Colon Cancer for Each Stage


Why is a colonoscopy done?


Your healthcare provider may recommend a colonoscopy for a number of reasons, these include:


Screening for colon cancer


It’s recommended to get screened for colon cancer from the age of 45. At this age, your doctor may recommend a colonoscopy every 10 years or so to check in on your colon health and look for any potential polyps.

This is only one form of colon cancer screening used - some other forms include:

  • Stool DNA test
  • Fecal immunochemical test (FIT)
  • Double contrast barium enema (DCBE)

Check for polyps


If a patient has a history of polyps, a colonoscopy might be used to check in and look for any other additional polyps.


Intestinal problems


A colonoscopy may be used to identify the underlying cause of any intestinal issues such as abdominal pains, rectal bleeding and chronic constipation or diarrhea.

See also: Top 5 Most Common Types of Cancer Globally


How is a colonoscopy done?


During a colonoscopy, the doctor will take a long, flexible tube (about as thick as a finger) and insert it into the rectum. This tube has a small video camera at the end which allows the doctor to see any abnormalities on a screen.

If polyps are found, they can be removed during a colonoscopy using specific tools, tissue samples can also be taken.

See also: What are the Risk Factors of Colon Cancer?


How painful is a colonoscopy?


Despite popular belief, not many people feel much pain during a colonoscopy! Doctor’s typically give patients medicine which helps them relax and sometimes sleep during the process so it’s possible that you may only feel slight cramping or discomfort a few hours after the procedure. Mayo Clinic recommends taking a walk to relieve these symptoms [2].


One reliable way to check for colon (colorectal) cancer is through a fecal immunochemical test (FIT), this can be done with your healthcare provider or from the comfort of your own home with an at-home lab test.

Our at-home test is non-invasive and can identify blood in the stool that can’t be seen by the naked eye. Online results will be available to you within 5 days with medical support available during every step. If you have already noted blood in your stool, it’s important to speak with your doctor.

You should consider taking the test if:

  • You are experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms
  • You have a history of adenomas (benign tumors)
  • You have inflammatory bowel disease* (which includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis)
  • You have an inherited syndrome (e.g. Lynch syndrome/HNPCC or FAP)
  • You have type 2 diabetes
  • You have undergone radiation therapy

See also: How can you Screen for Bowel Cancer From Home?


References


  1. American Cancer Society. 7 things to know about a colonoscopy. Online: Cancer.org
  2. Mayo Clinic. Colonoscopy. Online: Mayoclinic.org