Did you know bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK? According to Bowel Cancer UK, approximately 268,000 people are currently living with the disease. It is the fourth most common type of cancer, yet many patients know very little about what it is or the signs to watch out for.

Like any type of cancer, detecting the early signs of bowel cancer is crucial. One way to ensure you catch it as early as possible is to undergo a colonoscopy. Here, you’ll discover what a colonoscopy is, alongside what to expect if you do undergo one.

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is performed to detect abnormal changes within the large colon and rectum. It is a common diagnostic procedure carried out on thousands of patients each year and it can help to detect a range of conditions early.

The procedure isn’t usually painful, but it may cause some level of discomfort. For this reason, you may request a sedative if preferred. However, if you do choose this option, keep in mind that you won’t be able to drive for around 24 hours. This means you will need somebody to come and pick you up after the procedure.

How is it performed?

On the day of your colonoscopy, you will be required to fast for a set period of time. The surgeon will let you know when you need to stop drinking and eating. To ensure the bowels are empty during the procedure, a laxative will typically be provided. This helps the surgeon to get a better look at what is going on inside the bowel.

During a colonoscopy procedure, a long flexible tube with a tiny camera attached is placed into the rectum. This is known as a colonoscope, and it helps the surgeon to get a good view of what is happening in the rectum and large colon. Once the tube has been inserted, air is used to open the bowels. This may cause a bloated feeling, or you may feel like you need the toilet.

It takes around 30-45 minutes to undergo a colonoscopy, but you may be at the clinic for up to 2 hours in total.

Is a colonoscopy only used to detect bowel cancer?

No, a colonoscopy can be used to detect a variety of conditions. If your doctor has recommended you undergo the procedure, it could be down to any of the following reasons:

  • To investigate changes in bowel habits
  • To detect any growths within the bowels
  • To check for conditions such as Crohn’s Disease, or ulcerative colitis

Most people who undergo a colonoscopy don’t have bowel cancer. However, if it is cancer, the procedure can help to catch it early, improving the prognosis.

If you have been recommended a colonoscopy, contact Mr Woodward today. Although it can be worrying, the procedure is straightforward and painless. It can also help to provide peace of mind and ensure you get the treatment you need whatever the problem turns out to be.

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