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Health Tip: The Ins and Outs of Colonoscopy

Know what to expect

(HealthDay News) -- Colon cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer death among men and women in the United States. Yet, the American Cancer Society says too few Americans are getting screened for the disease, even though most doctors say they recommend a colonoscopy to patients over 50.

Here are some basic facts about colonoscopy from the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse:

  • Colonoscopy lets the physician look inside the large intestine, from the rectum all the way up through the colon to the lower end of the small intestine. Using a lighted tube, it enables the physician to see, and possibly remove inflamed tissue, abnormal growths, and treat ulcers and bleeding.
  • For the 30- to 60-minute procedure, you will lie on your left side on the examining table. You will probably be given pain medication and a mild sedative to keep you comfortable and to help you relax during the exam. After the procedure, you may need to stay at the facility for a couple of hours until the sedative wears off. Also, you must arrange for someone to take you home because you will not be allowed to drive.
  • Some say the worst part of the procedure is the preparation, because your colon must be completely empty for the colonoscopy to be thorough and safe. First, you must follow a liquid diet for up to three days beforehand. A liquid diet means fat-free bouillon or broth, strained fruit juice, water, plain coffee, plain tea or diet soda. Gelatin or popsicles in any color but red may also be eaten. You will also take a laxative the night before the procedure.

Be sure to inform your doctor before the procedure of any medical conditions or medications that you take.

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