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When is a Colonoscopy Recommended?

Colonoscopy performed on a patient lying on her side

A colonoscopy is recommended if the patient has symptoms or signs that suggest potential abnormalities in the rectum or colon. This is called a diagnostic colonoscopy. It’s also used to screen for colon cancer, a process that’s performed in patients who don’t have any symptoms. This is called a screening colonoscopy.

Diagnostic Colonoscopies

A diagnostic colonoscopy is recommended when there are signs or symptoms that suggest something may be wrong in the rectum or colon. This includes signs and symptoms like blood in the stool, changes in bowel habits, unexplained abdominal pain and/or weight loss, and a family history of colon cancer. If any of these symptoms are present, a colonoscopy may be recommended.

Screening Colonoscopies

Screening colonoscopies are performed in people who don’t have any symptoms of colon cancer or other problems in the rectum or colon. Screening colonoscopies are typically recommended for those between the ages of 50 and 75, or those with a family history of colon cancer, who have not had a screening in the past 10 years.

Why Colonoscopies Are Important

Colonoscopies are important because they can detect potentially cancerous and precancerous growths in the rectum and colon. While they are not always 100% accurate, they are the best way to detect these problems early on and to ensure that any necessary treatment is received quickly.

Colonoscopies can also help to diagnose other problems in the rectum and colon, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. It’s important to note that a colonoscopy is not a substitute for a biopsy, which is a more invasive procedure and typically used to diagnose these conditions.

While it is a very common procedure, many people still don’t know much about colonoscopies and what they are for. Many also don’t have an idea how much a colonoscopy costs. Aside from not knowing the basics like the cost of colonoscopy, many also don’t know what the risks are.

Common Risks Associated with Colonoscopy

Colonoscopy is a safe and effective procedure, and the majority of people who undergo it do not experience any complications. However, as with any medical procedure, there are some risks associated with colonoscopy. The risks include:

  1. Bleeding: During the colonoscopy, the physician may need to take biopsies or remove polyps. This can result in bleeding which may require a repeat scope to stop bleeding and possibly a transfusion.
  2. Infection: The procedure itself carries a risk of infection. The patient’s colon and rectum may be exposed to the outside environment and the patient can develop an infection if the area is not cleaned properly.
  3. Perforation: Colonoscopy is done by inserting a long and flexible tube through the anus. An injury can occur from direct trauma or during polyp removal, this is also known as a perforation. In this case surgery may be required.
  4. Allergic reactions: Some patients may experience an allergic reaction to the medication used during the procedure. This could cause swelling of the throat, which can be life-threatening in some cases.

Conclusion

Colonoscopy is a safe and effective procedure that can help in detecting and diagnosing a variety of conditions. However, it is important to understand the risks associated with the procedure. Therefore, it is highly recommended that individuals discuss the potential risks and benefits with their doctor before undergoing the procedure. Additionally, it is also important to follow the advice of the doctor before, during, and after the procedure to reduce the risk of complications.

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