Colorectal cancer is often spotted through a procedure known as a colonoscopy which allows doctors to examine your colon and rectum. An instrument called a colonoscope is used to look inside and see if there is any inflammation, ulcers, polyps or tumors.
If polyps are discovered, they will likely be removed even though they are not cancerous. Most cases of colorectal cancer develop from benign polyps so removing them before they turn malignant can be an effective way of preventing cancer.
Before a Colonoscopy
Before a colonoscopy you will not be allowed to eat for between one and three days as solid matter from your food will obstruct the doctor’s view of your colon and rectum. It may sound horrific to not eat for so long, but there are some liquids that you can have, including:
1. High energy drinks
3. Clear broth
4. Tea or coffee without milk
It is important to drink regularly so that you don’t get dehydrated, and remember that tea and coffee are diuretics (they dehydrate you) so if you are drinking these for energy, make sure you also drink plenty of water.
Your doctor might ask you to take laxatives the day before your colonoscopy to help you expel any remaining stool. These are usually in tablet form.
On the Day of the Colonoscopy
When you arrive at hospital, you may be given an enema to make sure any stool which is still in your body is cleared away. This is a simple procedure and involves flushing warm water into the anus.
You will then be given a sedative to relax you and some pain medication so that you are not in too much discomfort during the colonoscopy.
Your doctors will ask you to lie on your side and they will insert the colonoscope into your anus, through the rectum and into the colon. The scope will inflate the large intestine with carbon dioxide to give the doctors a better view and a tiny camera on the end of the scope transmits pictures to a computer screen.
If you are in pain during this procedure, don’t be afraid to say so. You can have your sedation increased to counter this problem.