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Everything You Need to Know About Colonoscopies

Nobody loves talking about colon health, but colorectal cancer is a major issue, especially among older Americans. Colonoscopies help spot the signs of cancer early. If you would like to know more about colonoscopies, keep reading.

Why Do You Need a Colonoscopy?

Colonoscopies are largely used to look for signs of colorectal cancer. Even if you have no symptoms of colorectal cancer, doctors recommend regular colonoscopies for patients between the ages of about 45 and 75. The starting age largely depends on your family history. If you have close family members (parents, kids, or siblings) who had colorectal cancer, you have a higher risk, so your doctor will want to start screening early.

Naturally, if you have symptoms of colorectal cancer or an obstruction, your doctor may recommend a colonoscopy. Symptoms of colorectal cancer include rectal bleeding, persistent abdominal discomfort, weakness, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss. Another major sign of colorectal cancer is changes in your bowel habits.

What Does Your Doctor Do During a Colonoscopy?

During a colonoscopy, the doctor uses a long tool with a camera to look inside the large colon. They are looking for abnormal tissue color or texture and polyps. Polyps are lumps of cells that are usually harmless. However, they can bleed, causing bloody stool. In severe cases, they can turn into colorectal cancer.

If there is any abnormal tissue or a mass, a biopsy is taken to test for any cancer cells. Polyps are also removed and may be tested. If cancer is detected, treatment should begin ASAP. Advanced colorectal cancer usually ends in death.  

Does a Colonoscopy Hurt?

Colonoscopies don't usually cause any discomfort because you are sedated during the procedure. Many patients may fall asleep, but even if you don't, you'll have little to no memory of the procedure. During the procedure, the doctor often lets in air to better see. This can lead to some pressure and craping after the colonoscopy until you pass the air.

If a biopsy is taken, there may be some mild discomfort. If it becomes painful, however, you should speak to your doctor. Before the colonoscopy procedure, make sure to follow your doctor's advice regarding food and liquids. If you eat or drink right before the procedure, you could get sick and aspirate vomit into your lungs.

A colonoscopy is the best way to screen for colorectal cancer, which can be incredibly deadly at the final stages. You will need to prep your bowls before the procedure, but the procedure itself is usually painless. If you would like to know more, contact a provider in your area.