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      Colonoscopy: Frequently asked questions


      What is a colonoscopy?

      A colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure that allows your doctor to inspect the inner lining of the colon for evidence of abnormalities such as polyps and colon cancer. The doctor uses a thin, lighted tube with a camera on the end called a colonoscope to look for these issues.

      During the test, the doctor can take samples of tissue that can be checked for cancer or other problems. This is called a biopsy. The doctor can also remove polyps.

      A colonoscopy is a safe and effective screening tool that can actually prevent cancer because doctors can find and remove polyps at the same time before these growths become cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the United States.

      Who should get screened?

      For average-risk individuals (meaning you’ve never had polyps or cancer), screening should begin at age 50. Screening is recommended at age 45 for African Americans due to a higher rate of colon cancer found at younger ages.

      A colonoscopy may be recommended sooner if you have a family history of colon polyps or cancer. Talk to your doctor about getting screened or call us today at 815-397-7340 or click here to make an appointment.

      In addition to screening for colorectal cancer, a colonoscopy is also used to evaluate and treat many digestive health conditions, including:

      1. Anemia
      2. Change in bowel habits – chronic diarrhea or constipation
      3. Rectal bleeding
      4. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
      5. Diverticulosis and diverticulitis
      6. Other abdominal symptoms

      Before the test, you will need to stop eating solid foods. You also will drink a liquid bowel prep or take laxative tablets that clean out your colon. This helps your doctor be able to see inside your colon during the test. There are different types of bowel prep based on individual needs, so be sure to follow the instructions given to you by your provider.

      Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

      What happens before the procedure?

      This information will help you understand what you can expect and reduce any stress you might be having. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.

      RGA medical staff will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your procedure. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before the procedure, so talk to your doctor as soon as you can.

      Follow your RGA doctor's directions about when to stop eating solid foods and drink only clear liquids. You can drink water, clear juices, clear broths, flavored ice pops and gelatin (such as Jell-O). Do not eat or drink anything red or purple. This includes grape juice, grape-flavored ice pops, fruit punch and cherry gelatin.

      Drink the "colon prep" liquid recommended by your provider. You will want to stay home because the liquid will make you go to the bathroom a lot. Your stools will be loose and watery. It is very important to drink all of the liquid. If you have problems drinking it, call your doctor.

      Do not eat any solid foods after you drink the colon prep and you will need to stop drinking clear liquids about six to eight hours before the test.

      What happens on the day of the procedure?

      Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of the procedure, take them with only a sip of water.

      Take a bath or shower before you come in for your procedure. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants or nail polish. Take off all jewelry and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

      At either RGA or the hospital, most times you will be kept comfortable and safe with a combination of medicine that creates conscious sedation, or "twilight" sedation. Depending on your medical history, sometimes sedation will need to be administered by an anesthesia provider. The anesthesia may make you sleep.

      You will lie on your back or your side with your knees drawn up toward your belly. The endoscope is inserted through the anus and moved gently around the bends of the colon. The scope goes in easily because it is lubricated.

      Your doctor may also use small tools to take tissue samples for a biopsy or to remove polyps. This does not hurt. The procedure usually takes 30 to 45 minutes, but it may take longer depending on what is found and what is done.

      You will need someone to stay with you during the procedure, and this person must be available to drive you home. Medicines used to keep you comfortable during the procedure also make it unsafe for you to drive. It is normal to experience mild cramping or abdominal pressure following the exam, but this usually subsides in an hour or so.

      After the exam, your RGA physician will explais the findings to you and your family. If a biopsy has been performed or a polyp removed, the results of these are typically available within three to seven days.

      If no polyps or other abnormalities are found, it’s recommended that you get screened again with another colonoscopy in 10 years. Based on the number and size of polyps found, or if you have a family history of colon cancer or complex polyps, your RGA doctor may recommend a repeat colonoscopy sooner than that.

      Colonoscopies save lives. Call us today to get screened at 815-397-7340 or click here to make an appointment.