The Importance of Colonoscopies
By: Beth Steinmetz, APRN- CNP, Fisher-Titus Digestive Health
A colonoscopy is an examination of your colon and rectum. Colonoscopies are performed to assist in early detection of colon cancer. During a colonoscopy, gastroenterologists and surgeons can also remove colon polyps to assist in prevention of colon cancer. Colonoscopies also assist in diagnosing various disorders in the lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and colitis.
The American Cancer Society recommends that individuals have a colonoscopy starting at age 45 and repeat the procedure every 10 years if the colonoscopy was normal. Individuals who have signs of or are at high risk for colorectal cancer, or have received a previous colonoscopy with abnormal results may be required to have Colonoscopies completed at an earlier age or more frequently. Risk factors for colorectal cancer include low activity level, family or personal history of colorectal cancer or colon polyps, smoking, heavy alcohol use, having diabetes, and older age.
Preparation prior to colonoscopy is required. To prepare for the procedure, individuals will be instructed regarding certain dietary modifications such as being asked to limit or eliminate high-fiber foods leading up to the colonoscopy. You may be asked to take laxatives by mouth and be on a clear-liquid diet the day before. Your bowel must be fully cleansed before the procedure so a laxative or enema may be given before the procedure as well. Make sure to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully before having the procedure. Since you will be given sedatives during the procedure which will impact safe driving ability, it is also vital to make prior arrangements for transportation. Let your doctor know if you are pregnant, have lung or heart conditions, kidney disease, diabetes, or are taking medications that affect blood clotting, and include information regarding any allergies to medication before the procedure.
Colonoscopies last for about 30-60 minutes. Prior to the procedure, you will be given sedatives and then be asked to lie on your side. A tubular instrument is inserted in the rectum that transmits an image of the colon’s lining that the doctor will examine for abnormalities. You may be asked to change position during the procedure and feel some minor discomfort. Biopsies may be taken of tissue while the colon is being inspected. Recovery takes about 30 minutes, and you may feel sensations of cramping or gas however, they will pass quickly. You may resume your normal diet after the procedure. Certain medications, such as blood thinners may need to be avoided for some time following the procedure.
It is important to ensure that your digestive system is in good health. If you have any questions or concerns about having a colonoscopy, please contact your primary care provider.
Beth Steinmetz is a Certified Nurse Practitioner at Fisher-Titus Digestive Health. Fisher-Titus offers Digestive Health services at our Norwalk location in Medical Park 3 to diagnose and treat a wide range of complications involving your digestive system. To learn more or schedule an appointment, go to fishertitus.org/digestive-health/.