A colonoscopy is a useful procedure to help doctors diagnose and prevent problems in your lower intestine. And you are not alone; hundreds of thousands of Canadians have colonoscopies every year.
During a colonoscopy, a flexible tube called a colonoscope is carefully fed through your rectum and into your colon. This special scope is rigged with a light and video camera, allowing the doctor to take a good look at your insides. It may sound a little overwhelming, but rest assured that your doctor will make every effort to make it easy on you.
Why do I have to have one?
Your doctor may recommend this test if you have any of these unexplained symptoms:
- abdominal pain
- chronic diarrhea
- bloody bowel movements
- iron-deficiency anemia
- a change in bowel habits
A colonoscopy can help with a diagnosis by ruling out various gastrointestinal conditions or confirming others.
Studies show many people just aren't having their insides examined often enough. Yet if your colon is checked over, it can actually reduce your risk of death from colorectal cancer.
A screening tool for colorectal cancer
Importantly, a colonoscopy is also considered the gold standard when it comes to screening for colorectal cancer. When your doctor takes a close look inside your colon, it's an opportunity to check out any abnormal-looking tissue, like tumours or polyps. Polyps are small growths that can sometimes develop into cancer.
Did you know that colorectal cancer (cancer that grows in the colon or rectum) is the third most common cancer in Canada? It's also the second leading cause of death from cancer. Every year, about 23,000 Canadians are diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
People at greater risk include those with a family history of colorectal cancer, or those with polyps (small growths on the colon and rectum) or inflammatory bowel disease. Smoking, being obese, and eating a diet high in red meat, high in fat, or low in fibre are all factors that increase your risk.
This cancer usually affects people over the age of 50. If you're in a high-risk group for colorectal cancer, ask your doctor how often you should have a colonoscopy. If you're in an average-risk group and have no troublesome symptoms, once you hit that half-century mark, ask your doctor if you should get a colonoscopy. Your doctor will advise you on how often you will need to have a colonoscopy.
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