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What Is a Colonoscopy?


A colonoscopy is a medical procedure used to examine the large intestine (colon) and rectum.

The colon and rectum are part of the digestive system.

The colonoscopy procedure involves inserting a long, flexible tube (colonoscope) into the rectum.

The colonoscope has a camera at the end which allows the doctor to see the inside of the colon and rectum.

A colonoscopy can be used to diagnose and treat various conditions of the colon and rectum, such as colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and gastrointestinal bleeding.

A colonoscopy is generally a safe and well-tolerated procedure.

In this article we will discuss everything you need to know about this procedure and more.


Why Is a Colonoscopy Performed?


The purpose of a colonoscopy is to screen for and detect potential problems, such as colorectal cancer or polyps.

It is considered to be the best method for diagnosing and detecting certain conditions of the colon.

If any abnormal areas are detected, biopsy (tissue sampling) or colon polyp removal will be done.


The Importance of a Colonoscopy?


A routine screening can avoid many colorectal cancers.

Catching colon cancer in its early stages and seeing a doctor regularly will ensure that your condition is monitored and treated effectively.


What Happens During a Colonoscopy?


A flexible, lighted tube called a colonoscope is used.

This tube is about the thickness of your little finger and has a tiny video camera at its tip.

Your doctor will ask you to lie on your left side on an exam table. Sedation or anesthesia is usually recommended. 

The colonoscope will be inserted into your rectum. The scope contains a light and a tube which allows your doctor to pump air into your colon.  This method allows a better view of the lining of your colon.

As it moves through your colon, the tiny video camera sends images to an external monitor which makes it possible for your doctor to view the inside of your colon.

This procedure normally takes about 30 to 60 minutes.



The Different Types of Colonoscopies


There are two types of colonoscopies: diagnostic and therapeutic.

Diagnostic colonoscopy is performed to find the cause of bleeding or other symptoms, such as abdominal pain or a change in bowel habits.

Therapeutic colonoscopy is performed to treat conditions, such as remove polyps or take biopsies.

What Are the Risks of a Colonoscopy?


A colonoscopy is a common medical procedure used to screen for colorectal cancer.

While the procedure is generally safe, there are a few potential risks involved.

These risks include:

– Perforation: A colonoscopy involves inserting a long, thin tube into the rectum and colon. In rare cases, this tube can cause a small tear in the lining of the bowel, known as a perforation. This can lead to infection or internal bleeding.

– Bleeding: The colonoscopy procedure can sometimes cause bleeding from the bowel. This bleeding is usually minor and stops on its own. In rare cases, more serious bleeding may occur and require treatment.

– Infection: There is a slight chance of your body having a reaction to the sedative used during the exam.

How To Prepare for A Colonoscopy


If you have been scheduled for a colonoscopy, you may be wondering what to expect and how to prepare.

Before colonoscopy, your colon must be completely cleaned out so that the doctor can see any abnormal areas.

Without proper preparation the colonoscopy will not be successful and may have to be repeated.

To clean the colon, you will need to follow the prescribed diet and take a strong laxative to empty your bowels.

Your doctor’s office will provide specific instructions about how you should prepare for colonoscopy.

Be sure to read these instructions ahead of time so you will be prepared for the prep. If you have questions, contact the doctor in advance.

You will need to avoid solid food for at least one day before the test. You should also drink plenty of fluids on the day before the test.

You can drink clear liquids up to several hours before your procedure, including water, clear juice (apple, grape), Energade or similar alternative, clear soup (beef, chicken, or vegetable), coffee or tea (without milk) or jelly (avoid red jelly).

The day or night before the colonoscopy, you will take a laxative. It consists of a powder that is mixed with water.

The most common laxative treatment is called “Klean-Prep”.

You can add some lemon squash to hide the unpleasant taste. Refrigerating the solution can make it easier to drink.

Drinking this solution may be the most unpleasant part of the exam. You will begin to have watery diarrhoea within a short time after drinking the solution.

If you become nauseated or vomit while drinking the solution, call your doctor or nurse for instructions.  


 What Can I Expect After a Colonoscopy?


After the colonoscopy, you will be observed in a recovery area until the effects of the sedative medication wear off.

The most common complaint after colonoscopy is a feeling of bloating and gas cramps. You may also feel groggy from the sedation medications. You should not return to work or drive that day.

Most people are able to eat normally after the test.

Ask your doctor when it is safe to restart aspirin and other blood- thinning medications.


How Often Should You Get Screened for Colon Cancer?


So, how often should you get screened for colon cancer? The answer is simple: every 10 years beginning at age 50.

But why is screening so important?

Screening tests like colonoscopies can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer.

In fact, colon cancer death rates have declined by 30% over the last two decades thanks to screening and early detection.

Screening for colon cancer is important for everyone over the age of 50.

It’s important to talk to your doctor about how often you should be screened.


How to Choose a Colonoscopy Doctor?


If you’re considering a colonoscopy, you’ll want to choose a doctor you feel comfortable with.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when making your decision:

– Ask for recommendations from family and friends. If someone you trust has had a good experience with a particular doctor, that’s a good place to start.

– Check with your insurance company. They may have a list of approved providers.

– Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, take the time to read reviews and check out the doctor’s credentials.

Schedule a consultation. This is your chance to ask questions and get a feel for the doctor’s bedside manner.

– Trust your gut.



Contact Dr. Deetlefs


Although these remedies and guidelines might alleviate the pain, it is recommended to get a professional diagnosis from your doctor or gastroenterologist in order to discuss the way forward.

A colonoscopy is a quick and painless procedure that can save your life.

It’s important to know what to expect and how to prepare so you can be as comfortable as possible during the procedure.

Dr Eduan prides himself on his ability to help his patients to the best of his ability by embracing good listening skills, effective communication, compassion and knowledge and skill honed during years of private gastroenterology practice.

If you would like to book an appointment with a gastrointestinal (GI) specialist or would simply like more information on a particular GI topic, don’t hesitate to use our online booking form or call Dr. Deetlefs at 021 551 867.


The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

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© Dr. Eduan Deetlefs, Registered Gastroenterologist, GI Doc Cape Town

Our website information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a doctor about your specific condition. Only a trained physician can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.