What Is a Colonoscopy?

Colorectal Cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the United States, a disease that impacts over 135,000 people per year and causes more than 50,000 deaths.

The good news is that if detected early on, colorectal cancer has over a 90% survival rate, which is why colorectal specialists urge all patients over the age of fifty to undergo a colonoscopy exam. Over 90% of patients impacted by colorectal cancer are over 40-years old.

Although colorectal cancer can affect people in any age group, your chances of receiving a colorectal cancer diagnosis increase progressively from age 40 and rise sharply after age 50.

“A colonoscopy is a common diagnostic and therapeutic tool that is used in our (colorectal) practice,” says David L. Meese, M.D., a board-certified colon and rectal surgeon at the Colon & Rectal Surgery Associates. “The procedure is performed with a lighted, flexible instrument about the diameter of a finger. Through a colonoscopy, we can identify polyps, cancers, diverticulitis, colitis, and other diseases of the colon.”

Preparing for a Colonoscopy

Prior to the procedure, patients will need to empty their colon completely. Any residual content in the intestines may obscure your physician’s view during the process and increase the likelihood of missing irregularities during the exam.

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“To prepare for a colonoscopy, you’ll need to drink a laxative to flush the stool from the colon, so that the bowel can be visualized,” says Dr. Meese. “Then you’ll come to our office where we have an outpatient surgery center, and we’ll perform the colonoscopy. An IV line will be started to induce sedation, and then the procedure will be performed while you sleep, avoiding any discomfort during the process.”

How Is a Colonoscopy Performed?

During a colonoscopy, a specially-designed flexible device equipped with a light (called a colonoscope) is inserted through the entire length of the colon enabling the physician to analyze the inner surface of the intestine for diagnostic therapeutic purposes.

“(The colonoscope) is inserted through the anus and moved through the length of the colon,” says Dr. Meese. “It’s possible through the instrument to visualize the entire lining of the bowel.”

The procedure usually lasts about thirty minutes but may extend if polyps are found and need to be removed. Full sedation is given to facilitate a painless and easily accomplished procedure.

Recovering After a Colonoscopy

“After the procedure, you’ll stay in our facility awake for about two hours,” says Dr. Meese. “You’ll need someone to take you home afterward.”

Complications from the procedure are rare but possible. There is a small chance of bleeding, injury to the bowel wall, or reactions to sedation or bowel preparation.

“There are usually only minimal symptoms following colonoscopy,” says Dr. Meese. “Sometimes gassiness or crampiness, but it’s normally minor, and most people can return to activities after a few hours after the sedation medication wears off.”

If you have any questions or would like more information about colonoscopy or colorectal cancer, please contact us or call 386-672-0017.

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