Colonoscopy Can Detect Curable Cancer
A recent study has shown that colonoscopies helped doctors detect a high rate of curable cancer in elderly people who had the screening for the first time.
Colonoscopy is a procedure that enables an examiner (Usually a gastroenterologist) to evaluate the condition of the colon. The colonoscope is a four foot long, flexible tube about the thickness of a finger with a camera and source of light at its tip. The tip of the colonoscope is inserted into the anus and then is advanced slowly, under visual control, into the rectum and through the colon usually as far as the cecum, which is the first part of the colon.
Colonoscopy may be done for a variety of reasons. Most often it is done to investigate the cause of blood in the stool, abdominal pain, diarrhea, a change of bowel habit, or an abnormality found on colonic x-rays or a CT scan. People with a previous history of polyps or colon cancer and who have a family history of polyps or colon cancer problems that may be associated with colon cancer, may be advised to have regular colonoscopies because the risks are greater for polyps or colon cancer. How often you should have a colonoscopy depends on the degree of the risks and the abnormalities found at previous colonoscopies. It has been recommended that even healthy people at normal risk for colon cancer should undergo colonoscopy at age 50 and every 10 years after, for the purpose of removing colonic polyps before they become cancerous.
If the procedure is to be completed and accurate, the colon must be completely cleaned, and there are several colonoscopy preparations. Patients are given detailed instructions about the cleansing preparation. Normally, this consists of drinking a large volume of water of a special cleansing solution or several days of a clear liquid diet and laxatives before the examination. These instructions should be followed as prescribed or the procedure may be unsatisfactory as visualization of the lining of the colon may be obscured by residual stool.
If any abnormal area needs to be better evaluated, then a biopsy (a sample of the tissue) can be performed. The biopsy is sent to a pathology laboratory for examination under a microscope by a pathologist. If infection is suspected, a biopsy may be obtained for culturing of bacteria or examination under the microscope for parasites. If colonoscopy is performed because of bleeding, the site of bleeding can be identified, samples of bleeding obtained, and the bleeding controlled by several means. If there are any polyps, they almost always can be removed through the colonoscope. Removing these polyps is an important method of preventing colorectal cancer, although the majority of polyps are benign and do not become cancerous. Biopsies are taken for many reasons and do not necessarily mean that cancer is suspected.
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