A Colonoscopy Can Save Your Life

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Colorectal cancer is the nation’s second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths; but it is one of only a few cancers that can be prevented. Nearly 135,000 adults are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year. Through proper colorectal cancer screening, like a colonoscopy, doctors can find and remove polyps hidden in the colon before they become cancerous. Sometimes, removing polyps can prevent cancer altogether.

Reaching 80% Screened for Colorectal Cancer by 2018

RWJBarnabas Health is one of 500 local and national organizations to sign a pledge to support 80% By 2018, an effort led by the American Cancer Society (ACS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT), to reduce colorectal cancer as a major public health problem and to work towards the shared goal of 80 percent of adults aged 50 and older being regularly screened for colorectal cancer by 2018.

Colonoscopy: What to Expect

A colonoscopy allows your doctor to visualize the lining of your large intestine. It can be performed as part of a routine screening, for patients with known polyps or family history of polyps, to evaluate a change in bowel habits such as diarrhea or constipation, to evaluate bleeding, or to evaluate changes in the lining of the colon, also known as inflammatory disorders.

For adequate visualization, the rectum and colon must be completely emptied of stool. The preparation varies from consumption of cleansing solution, laxatives, and clear liquid diet. Your physician will instruct you regarding the cleansing method which is best for you.

You will most likely be sedated during the procedure so you must make an arrangement to have someone drive you home. Sedation can affect your judgment and reflexes for the entire day. You will not be able to drive, drink alcohol, or operate machinery until the next day.

During the procedure you will have an intravenous (IV) inserted to give you adequate hydration before and during your procedure. Your nurse will obtain a full medical history from you including medical conditions, medications you take, and family history. In the procedure room you will be positioned on a stretcher on your left side. Your heart rhythm and vital signs will be monitored. You will receive oxygen through a small tube under your nose. At all times you will be draped to ensure modesty. Once you are positioned and monitored, sedation will be administered through your IV by an anesthesiologist. You will drift off to sleep while your colonoscopy is being performed.

During the procedure, the physician may wish to take a biopsy, a small snip of tissue. There is no sensation when a biopsy has been take, nor afterward and a biopsy does not necessarily indicate a problem.

Also during the exam, if your physician finds a polyp, s/he will remove it via a number of different methods. Since polyps can turn in to cancer, it is important to remove them promptly. There is no pain during or after polyp removal. Any tissue removed during the procedure will go to the laboratory for analysis and you physician will discuss w/ you after the report has been received.

Once the procedure is complete you will awaken quickly and remain in the Post Anesthesia Care Suite until you are ready to go home, usually with 1-1 ½ hrs. You may feel slightly bloated, but this will quickly improve by passing gas. Your physician will explain the results to you after your procedure or at your follow up visit.