Colonoscopy is a subject you may not know a lot about—you may have heard stories from friends about the prep, but this may be the extent of your knowledge. Colonoscopy is the gold standard for detecting colorectal cancer (both colon cancer and cancer of the rectum). Colon cancer is the #2 leading cause of cancer death, and the American Cancer Society estimates that 1 in 23 men and 1 in 24 women will develop colon cancer at some point in their lifetime. With these staggering statistics, it’s a wise idea to get an overview of colonoscopy and learn why the prep—and the procedure itself—really isn’t so bad.
The instrument used during a colonoscopy is known as a colonoscope. It’s a small, thin tube inserted into the colon (also known as the large intestine). During the procedure, the physician is checking for abnormalities. Colorectal cancer typically presents with polyps, and the colonoscope allows your healthcare provider to see if there are any polyps in your colon, rectum, or both. The doctor may also perform a biopsy during the procedure. This is when your physician takes a small tissue sample from your colon or rectum in order to study it further. What makes a colonoscopy different from other diagnostic tests is that your provider can remove polyps during the procedure, if your colon cancer is in the early stages. There are several stages of colon cancer, ranging from 0 to 4.
Colorectal cancer stages vary from 0 to 4, with 0 being a precancerous stage and 4 being the most severe. The stages are as follows:
Many patients are anxious about having a colonoscopy because they’re worried about taking time off work or away from their families. The actual colonoscopy procedure itself takes about 30 minutes. You can resume your regular diet immediately after (unless otherwise instructed), and your recovery time will only last about a day before you can resume normal activities. You may also be wondering what the prep is like—you will have to prep the night before and take some other precautions two or three days before the procedure.
Colonoscopy prep typically forms in the form of a liquid that you drink. Your doctor may have you do split dosing, which means you drink some liquid the night before and some the morning of the procedure. Typically, your physician will ask you to avoid popcorn, nuts, seeds, and corn for three days before your procedure or ask you to adopt a low-fiber diet in the days leading up to the procedure. When it is 24 hours before your procedure, you’ll have to switch to a liquid diet (no alcohol), which includes water, black coffee, ginger ale, white grape juice, apple juice, and clear broth. JELL-O is ok as well, provided it is not red or blue. When it is four hours before your procedure, you will have to stop all liquids entirely. If you have general anesthesia, you will need to stop liquids at midnight the night before your procedure. It is essential to follow all instructions to the letter. If your colon is not completely emptied, your provider will not be able to perform the colonoscopy.
As you can see, colonoscopy prep only requires paying attention to your diet in the days leading up to the procedure and fasting typically the night before or the morning of. Recovery is a mere 24 hours—so you can get back to work or other duties fairly quickly. Other reasons colonoscopy isn’t so bad to include:
If you need more information about colorectal cancer or colonoscopy, or you would like to make an appointment to schedule a colonoscopy, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Carolina Digestive Health Associates today. We provide complete and comprehensive treatment when it comes to any gastrointestinal problem or concern.