Colon Cancer Screening Saves Lives
A colonoscopy allows your doctor to examine the lining of your large intestine (colon) for abnormalities by inserting a thin flexible tube into your anus and slowly advancing it into the rectum and colon. This instrument, called a colonoscope, has its own lens and light source and it allows us to view images on a video monitor.
Why do we recommend colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy is a screening test for colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Annually, approximately 150,000 new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed in the United States and 50,000 people die from the disease. It has been estimated that increased awareness and screening would save at least 30,000 lives each year. We may recommend colonoscopy to evaluate for symptoms such as bleeding and chronic diarrhea.
What are polyps and why are they removed?
Polyps are abnormal growths in the colon lining that are usually benign (noncancerous). They vary in size from a tiny dot to several inches. Your doctor can't always tell a benign polyp from a malignant (cancerous) polyp by its outer appearance, so he or she will usually remove polyps for analysis. Because cancer begins in polyps, removing them is critical for preventing colorectal cancer.
What are the possible complications of colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy and polypectomy are generally safe when performed by doctors who have been specially trained and are experienced in these procedures. One possible complication is a perforation, or tear, through the bowel wall that could require surgery. Bleeding might occur at the site of biopsy or polypectomy, but it's usually minor. Bleeding can stop or be controlled through the colonoscope; it rarely requires follow-up treatment. Some patients might have a reaction to the sedatives or complications from heart or lung disease. Although complications after colonoscopy are uncommon, it's important to recognize early signs. Contact your doctor if you notice severe abdominal pain, fever and chills or rectal bleeding. Note that bleeding can occur several days after the procedure.
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