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3 Key Things to Know about Colonoscopies

The human digestive system consists of multiple organs and components, including the long stretches of intestines coiled within the abdominal cavity. If your stomach doctor or gastroenterologist recommends that you undergo a colonoscopy, you'll feel better prepared for the experience after reading the following three points.

1. Why and When to Get a Colonoscopy

Doctors typically perform a colonoscopy to inspect the interior walls of the intestines and rectum. This procedure can help detect colorectal cancer in its earliest stages. In fact, it even allows the gastroenterologist to go ahead and remove benign growths that might turn into cancer later, potentially saving your life.

You should start scheduling periodic colonoscopies after the age of 45 since the disease develops most often in older individuals. You should also get a colonoscopy if you show any possible signs of colorectal cancer, such as bloody stools, rectal bleeding, and unexplained abdominal pain or weight loss.

2. How a Colonoscopy Works

The colonoscopy procedure features a special colorectal scope thin and flexible enough to move into and through the intestine. The scope includes its own light source as well as a miniature camera that relays images to a monitor. The entire procedure usually takes less than 60 minutes.

The gastroenterology team will administer medication to anesthetize you and put you in a state of conscious sedation. You'll then lie on one side to receive the scope. Your doctor will send air through the scope to inflate your intestines, which allows for easier viewing. You may need to modify your diet for a day or two afterward.

3. How to Prepare for a Colonoscopy

Before you can undergo a successful colonoscopy, you must make sure to empty your bowels as thoroughly as possible. To achieve this goal, your gastroenterologist will have you drink a liquid preparation that has a laxative effect. You may also need to supplement this preparation with a standard over-the-counter laxative.

Most people take a substance called polyethylene glycol in advance of a colonoscopy, along with lots of clear liquids. However, you may also have the option of taking other laxative preparations that don't require so much liquid consumption, such as phosphate tablets or other pills.

While you might not relish the idea of a colonoscopy, this routine procedure can help you maintain your gastrointestinal health for life. Contact a gastroenterologist clinic near you to schedule an appointment and discuss the procedure in detail with a skilled specialist.