A colonoscopy allows the doctor to view the entire length of your colon (large bowel) through a thin, flexible tube with a camera called a colonoscope. Under conscious sedation the tube is inserted into your rectum and advanced until the entire colon is seen. A clear view of the colon lining allows the doctor to detect growths, areas of inflammation or other abnormalities. The examination is safe and painless.
During the colonoscopy, your doctor will look for polyps, small growths that can occur in the lining of the colon. These polyps can be removed during the procedure—a process called a Polypectomy. An Advanced Polypectomy may be called for to address large polyps, or polyps that are difficult to access. The removed polyps will be biopsied to determine if they are malignant (cancerous), precancerous, or benign. Removal of polyps before they become cancerous is the single best way to prevent colon cancer. If found early, colorectal cancer is over 90% curable.
You may also qualify for a Virtual CT Colonoscopy, which uses special x-ray equipment to examine the large intestine.
There are two types of colonoscopies. The procedures are identical, but the two differ in what initiates the test. A screening colonoscopy is recommended for those over 50 years and for those at higher risk for colon cancer, such as those with a family history of colon cancer or those with longstanding ulcerative colitis. A diagnostic colonoscopy may be ordered to evaluate symptoms such as blood in your stool or chronic diarrhea.
In some circumstances, certain patients will require a deeper sedation than what is routinely offered. In these situations, we arrange for colonoscopy (or upper endoscopy) with propofol in conjunction with our anesthesiologists. We schedule these procedures several times a month.
Similar to a colonoscopy, a flexible sigmoidoscopy allows your doctor to exam the lining of your rectum and a portion of your colon. A sigmoidoscopy only looks at the lower portion, or left side, of the colon, while a colonoscopy views the entire colon. The test could be ordered to evaluate symptoms such as abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, or a change in bowel habits. The sigmoidoscopy is also used in elderly patients who may not be able to tolerate a colonoscopy.