What is a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a diagnostic test which allows the physician to view the inner lining of the colon, also referred to as the large intestine. Like an upper endoscopy, a colonoscopy uses a thin, flexible tube attached to a camera and light. The procedure is considered one of the best ways to detect colon cancer, polyps, ulcers, tumors, growths, and other intestinal problems.

Why is a colonoscopy performed?
A colonoscopy is performed to help diagnose problems with the gastrointestinal tract. Such problems include:
  • Abdominal pain that does not subside after other treatments
  • Blood in stool or bleeding from the anus
  • Sudden unexplained weight loss
  • Changes in the bowel habits
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease
  • As a screening method for colon cancer
Screening is testing for diseases when people have no symptoms. Screening procedures enable doctors to find diseases during their early stages, therefore increasing the chances of successfully treating the problem.

Should I get screened for colon cancer? The American College of Gastroenterology recommends screening for colon cancer
  • At age 50 for people who are not at increased risk of the disease.
  • At age 45 for African Americans because they have an increased risk of developing colon cancer.
Early screening is also recommended if you have inflammatory bowel disease or a family history of colon cancer.

How to prepare for a colonoscopy?
The preparation process for this procedure requires that you clear your colon. This enables the camera to access your colon, as well as safely travel through it without any complications.

In order to clean out your colon, Dr. Khorrami will ask that you take a laxative or perform an enema. The laxative, or enema, will cause you to have diarrhea, or loose frequent stools. Don’t be alarmed as this is what is supposed to happen. You should abstain from eating any solid foods the day before the screening. Liquids such as water, black coffee, tea, or broth are the best choices. Any type of red-colored liquids (e.g. tomato soup) should be avoided so that the physician does not mistake it for blood.

Be prepared to list any vitamins, prescriptions, or over-the-counter medications you take in order to ensure to a smooth and uneventful procedure.

You should arrange to have a friend or family member drive you to and from your colonoscopy procedure center, as you will feel impaired from the anesthesia used during the procedure.

What to expect during a colonoscopy?
The colonoscopy will be performed in a procedure center where you will be placed on a comfortable table. Dr. Khorrami will use a sedative to minimize any pain you may feel during the procedure. After the anesthesia is administered, Dr. Khorrami will insert a thin camera into the colon through the anus, which will send a video image of your intestines to a computer screen for viewing. You may be gently moved around for better viewing angles. The entire procedure will last roughly anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour depending on various factors.

If any polyps are detected, then Dr. Khorrami will safely remove them. The reason they are removed is because colon cancer normally starts as a polyp, so it’s best to remove them as soon as possible as a prevention method. Also, Dr. Khorrami may opt to take a biopsy sample of tissue for further examination.

Proper preparation prior to the study will ensure a clear and successful colonoscopy. It is important to understand that a colonoscopy will not be performed unless your colon is cleared.

What to expect after a colonoscopy?
After your colonoscopy has been performed, you should expect the following:
  • You may need to stay at the procedure center for an hour or two.
  • It is normal for you to feel stomach cramps and bloating.
  • The anesthesia will not be fully worn off, which is why you are advised to arrange for a ride to and from the procedure center.
  • Recovery should only take a day, allowing you to return to your schedule and work routine the following day.
  • If polyps have been removed, then minor bleeding from the anus may be noted.
  • Biopsy results may take a few days to process.
Is a colonoscopy safe?
Colonoscopies have been deemed very safe and effective. As with any procedure, there are risks. Risks are rare, but include a tear in the colon, bleeding from the removal of a polyp, or bleeding from where a tissue sample was collected.

If you experience any of these symptoms following a colonoscopy, then you should contact your gastroenterologist immediately:
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Bloody bowel movements
  • Dizziness
  • Overall feeling of weakness
Discuss Your Options with Dr. Khorrami
Dr. Khorrami has been in practice since 1996 as a double-board certified gastroenterologist, has experienced a variety of patient cases, and is well equipped to solve your digestive problems. Get in touch to learn more about the colonoscopy procedure and set up a consultation to determine if a colonoscopy is right for you.

Source contains material from the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC).


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About Dr. Khorrami

Dr. Payman Khorrami is a UCLA graduate, has been in practice since 1996, and is double board certified. Undergraduate Education at University of California, Berkeley, Medical School at University of California, San Francisco, Internal Medicine Training at University of California, San Diego Read Full Bio