Colonoscopy is considered the “gold standard” for colorectal cancer screening. A colonoscopy is a procedure that enables us to evaluate the inside of the colon (also known as the large intestine or large bowel). A colonoscope is a long flexible tube approximately the width of a finger that features a camera and light at the tip. A colonoscopy is most often performed to find and prevent tumors or polyps (precancerous growths) that can develop into colon cancer. It not only can diagnose colon cancer, but it is a preventative technique that can be extremely effective in preventing colon cancer by removing pre cancerous growths and polyps. It can also be used to examine the cause of blood in the stool, abdominal pain, diarrhea, a change in bowel habits or other complaints.
Removal of a Polyp (polypectomy)
If a polyp is detected during a colonoscopy, the doctor can remove it. Polyps are growths that if left untreated can potentially turn into cancer. To remove the polyp, forceps or a wire snare are inserted through the scope and can sever the polyp. No pain is involved in this process. Removing polyps is an important process because it helps to prevent and even cure colon cancer. Dr. Weitzman and Dr. Cantor make sure to take their time to fully examine the colon and make sure no polyp is being missed.
An important quality indicator that correlates with high quality colonoscopy is the withdrawal time. A colonoscopy should have at least a 6 minute withdrawal time to fully examine each fold and area of a colon. A polyp that is unfortunately missed during the procedure can continue to grow and turn into cancer. It has been shown that doctors that are diligent in examining the colon and have a prolonged withdrawal time (greater than 6 minutes) are more apt to find polyps that those that may rush through the procedure. That is why Dr. Weitman and Cantor believe that performing the colonoscopy in the relaxed and unhurried environment of their personal endoscopy facility is the most effective way to prevent colon cancer.
Before your colonoscopy procedure, you will be provided with specific instructions regarding emptying and cleaning the bowel before the procedure. It is extremely important that the colon be prepped effectively to ensure the most successful results.
As with most procedures, it is important to tell the doctor and anesthesiologist all the medications that you are currently taking and if you have any medication allergies. Also, you should inform the doctors if you are taking any over the counter medications, aspirin, or blood thinner.
What long will a Colonoscopy last?
The entire colonoscopy process typically takes around 30 minutes from start to finish, depending on the individual colon and what additional procedures are being done. Once the sedative wears off, you will be able to go home. The whole procedure from arrival to departure should be 60-90 minutes. You will discuss the results with your doctor prior to leaving the office.
Are there risks associated with Colonoscopy?
Although colonoscopy is important for the prevention and detection of colon cancers and is a very safe and effective procedure, there are still small risks. One risk that could occur is a tear through the bowel wall that could allow leaking of intestinal fluids. If this were to happen, surgery may be needed for treatment. Sometimes minor bleeding can also occur from where a polyp was removed. Finally, drug reactions can rarely occur and with any test, unfortunately, the pathology can sometimes be missed. Once again, these are all very rare but still important to mention.