A colonoscopy is a medical procedure used to examine the colon and rectum, and in some cases to remove tissue in these areas. A health care provider might recommend a colonoscopy if colon or rectal cancer is suspected. A colonoscopy may also be useful to determine the cause of unusual symptoms such as abdominal pain, weight loss, anal bleeding or changes in bowel movements. After the age of 50, a colonoscopy may be recommended as part of a routine health screening to check for signs of colorectal cancer.
More About the Procedure
A colonoscopy is performed with an instrument called a colonoscope. This is a long, thin and flexible tube that is inserted through the anus and snaked into the colon. The colonoscope is outfitted with a light and a camera, and it transmits an image to a video monitor to give the doctor a better look at what's going on inside the colon or rectum. In a typical colonoscopy, the doctor examines the entire colon before removing the colonoscope. The patient is sedated during this process.
Along with examination, the colonoscope can also be used to remove polyps or abnormal tissue from the colon so it can be tested for cancer in a laboratory. Medication can also be administered via the colonoscope to stop any bleeding that may have occurred as a result of the tissue removal.
Overall, a colonoscopy is regarded as a very safe procedure, and the risk of side effects or complications is small. There is a very small chance that the large intestine could be punctured during the procedure, causing bleeding, but this rarely occurs. And, though it would be a rare occurrence, anyone who experiences fever, dizziness, weakness, bloody bowel movements or abdominal pain after a colonoscopy should see a doctor immediately.
SOURCES: U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
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