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A colonoscopy is an invasive procedure carried out by a seasoned health care professional to investigate the health and condition of the part of the large intestine known as the colon. A colonoscopy is often used as a routine colorectal cancer screening test for those age 40 and above and others at risk of developing colorectal or colon cancer. Sometimes, the test is necessitated as a result of certain symptoms, such as blood in the stool.
A colonoscopy has the added advantage of being both a diagnostic and a therapeutic procedure. In the process of carrying out a colonoscopy, abnormal growths can be removed and tissue samples taken (biopsy) for further investigation.
Preparing for a Colonoscopy
About 1 to 2 days before a colonoscopy, a patient is required to go on an all-liquid, fibre-free diet. This is to make sure that the large intestine is clear in order to get reliable results. The day before the colonoscopy, it is often recommended that the patient stay home, as he may be given a laxative to further clear the bowel. This will lead to frequent stooling, so being at home and close to a bathroom is highly recommended.
Test and Results
The endoscopist who carries out the procedure uses a special type of endoscope known as a colonoscope. It is a thin and flexible tube about 70 inches long with a camera attached to one end of it. This is then passed through the anus into the rectum and through the colon. Still pictures and video is taking of the inner lining of the colon for further study. Abnormal growths such as polyps, tumours and ulcers are screened for and removed. Tissue samples or biopsies are also taken for histology testing to make sure they are not precancerous or cancerous.
The images taken by the colonoscope are visible immediately, and if a patient's colon is free of abnormal growth, she is given a clean bill as far as the health of her colon is concerned. However, if any biopsies were taken or other growths removed, these would have to be studied. The patient will have to wait for days or weeks to get the histology results back depending on how busy the facility is.
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