The large intestine, or colon, has four sections:
The rectum joins the anus, or the opening where waste matter passes out of the body.
Colorectal cancer screening guidelines for early detection from the American Cancer Society recommend that beginning at age 50, both men and women should follow one of the examination schedules below:
Persons with any of the following colorectal cancer risk factors should begin screening procedures at an earlier age and be screened more often:
A colonoscopy may be used to examine colon polyps, tumors, ulceration, inflammation, diverticula (pouches), strictures (narrowing), and foreign objects within the colon. It may also be used to determine the cause of unexplained chronic diarrhea or gastrointestinal bleeding or to evaluate the colon after cancer treatment.
Colonoscopy may be indicated when the results of a barium enema and/or sigmoidoscopy warrant further examination of the colon.
There may be other reasons for your physician to recommend a colonoscopy.
As with any invasive procedure, complications may occur. Complications related to colonoscopy include, but are not limited to, the following:
If you are pregnant or suspect that you may be pregnant, you should notify your physician.
There may be other risks depending upon your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your physician prior to the procedure.
Certain factors or conditions may interfere with a colonoscopy. These factors include, but are not limited to, the following:
A colonoscopy may be performed on an outpatient basis or as part of your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your physician's practices.
Generally, the colonoscopy follows this process:
After the procedure, you will be taken to the recovery room for observation. Your recovery process will vary depending upon the type of sedation that is given. Once your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing are stable and you are alert, you will be taken to your hospital room or discharged to your home. Colonoscopy is usually done on an outpatient basis.
You may be asked to fast for a few hours and avoid foods high in fiber content for the first 24 hours after the procedure.
You may experience flatulence (passing of gas) and gas pains after the procedure. This is normal. Walking and moving about may help to ease any discomfort.
The first bowel movement after a colonoscopy may contain dark red or maroon-colored blood clots.
Alcohol should be avoided for at least 24 hours after sedation. You may be encouraged to drink extra fluids to make up for the water lost during preparation for the procedure.
Notify your physician about any of the following:
Following a colonoscopy, your physician may give you additional or alternate instructions after the procedure, depending on your particular situation.
You will not be able to drive following the procedure, so plan on having someone with you to take you home.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your physician. Please consult your physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
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