By Robert Roddenberry, MD
Don’t Assume is the Colorectal Cancer Alliance’s 2019 campaign, and their goal is to challenge assumptions and misconceptions about colorectal cancer by dispelling myths and raising awareness.
Inspired by the campaign, we asked Robert Roddenberry, MD, to discuss common assumptions about colonoscopies and answer what exactly happens before, during and after a screening?
Reasons to Get a Colonoscopy
“Colonoscopies should be performed on everyone starting at age 50 or possibly younger if there is a family history of colon cancer. The purpose is to remove polyps that can turn into colon cancer, or your doctor may order a colonoscopy if you suffer from stomach abdominal pain or digestive tract ailments,” said Dr. Roddenberry.
A colonoscopy is used to:
- Collect tissue samples used to treat and diagnose digestive diseases and conditions such as inflammation, diarrhea or cancers of the digestive system
- Find out what’s causing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, change in bowel habits and gastrointestinal bleeding
- Treat specific ailments of the digestive system such as bleeding in the colon or removing polyps
- Prevent the development of colon cancer
Prepping for the Colonoscopy
Colon prep takes 1 to 2 days, depending on which type of prep your doctor recommends. “At Mission Surgery – McDowell, we primarily have our patients prep for an upcoming colonoscopy through the use of products such as Miralax, Dulcolax Tablets, Gatorade or other electrolyte drinks. We do use the traditional GoLytely prep for patients who request it. It is important to take the prep because if a provider cannot see well enough then the whole process will have to be repeated,” stated Dr. Roddenberry.
For many people, the prep is worse than the test. The bowel prep may be uncomfortable, and you may feel hungry on the clear liquid diet. The colon prep causes loose, frequent stools and diarrhea so that your colon will be empty for the test.
The Colonoscopy Procedure
Colonoscopy may be done in a doctor’s office, clinic or a hospital, and during the test, you may get pain medicine and a sedative put in a vein in your arm (IV). These medicines help you relax and feel sleepy during the test.
“Performing a colonoscopy involves a minimally invasive procedure used to take a look at your digestive system with a tiny camera attached to the end of a long, flexible tube inserted through the rectum. This allows your provider to visually examine and treat conditions of the colon and rectum,” Dr. Roddenberry explained.
The test usually takes 30 to 45 minutes, but it may take longer, depending upon what is found and what is done during the test.
Results: Normal vs Abnormal
Once the procedure is completed, it may take up to four days to receive initial test results. A normal result confirms that the lining of the colon looks smooth and pink, with a lot of normal folds. No growths, pouches, bleeding or inflammation are present.
An abnormal result may be given if any of the following are identified:
- Hemorrhoids – The most common cause of blood in the stool.
- Polyps – A small growth of excess tissue that often grows on a stem or stalk on the inner surface of the large intestine.
- Cancer – Signs of cancer may be found during the procedure.
- Ulcer – A sore that develops on the mucous membrane and can be caused by some types of infection, injury or cancer.
- Pouches – Called diverticulosis, the pouches in the wall of a colon may not cause any symptoms, or they may bleed or become painful, inflamed or infected.
- Inflammation – Red, swollen lining of the colon may be caused by an infection or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
If a normal result is received, Dr. Roddenberry recommends that colonoscopies should be repeated at regular intervals afterward to help prevent colon cancer — typically 3-10 years for most patients.
“Our providers are here to offer you and your loved ones access to the best people, resources and advanced technology,” said Dr. Roddenberry.
Robert Roddenberry, MD, practices at both Mission Surgery – McDowell and Mission Surgery – Spruce Pine. He is board certified in general surgery.