Do I need a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a relatively low-risk procedure that helps doctors diagnose serious illnesses such as bowel cancer, as well as inflamed tissues and ulcers.
Almost all cases of colon cancer start with small growths called polyps on the lining of your colon. These start as benign (non-cancerous) growths, but if they are not removed, they can become cancerous.
If a polyp is found during your colonoscopy it will be removed as a preventative measure, in most cases. Polyps take 10-15 years on average to develop into cancer, hence why a routine colonoscopy is recommended every 5-10 years for people at average risk of bowel cancer.
Bowel cancer occurs most commonly in people in their 30s and 40s or older. Sometimes it occurs in people in their 20s. It’s very rare in teenagers. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to tell who will develop bowel cancer, therefore people who have a strong family history of bowel cancer are recommended to have regular check-ups. Bowel cancer affects one person in 20 at some stage during their life.
What is a colonoscopy?
At our Moonee Valley bowel cancer screening clinic in Melbourne, our specialist doctor performs a colonoscopy using a thin flexible tube with a camera and light on the end, called a colonoscope, to examine your entire large bowel (colon), including your large intestine and rectum. Under sedation, the colonoscope is passed through your back passage and gently moved around so that your doctor can see the full length of your large bowel.
There’s no pain or discomfort during or after a colonoscopy. And because you’re not fully anaesthetised, it’s a day procedure with a short recovery period.
Preparing for your colonoscopy
A colonoscopy is a visual examination of your large intestine and rectum, otherwise known as your colon, using a tiny, high-resolution camera and light source on a flexible, thin, tube-like device. Find out more here.
It’s very important that your bowel is completely clear of any solid matter for your colonoscopy to be successful. You must follow the instructions given to you and maintain clear fluids only as directed the day before the procedure.
You must let Moonee Valley Specialist Centre know of any medical conditions and medications they are on as they may require special instructions to deal with this.
Briefly, the day before your colonoscopy you’ll take a laxative preparation. Therefore, we recommend you spend the day with easy access to toilet facilities. You must stop smoking and drinking fluids 4 hours before the scheduled colonoscopy and, obviously, you can’t eat anything.
Please wear warm, loose comfortable clothing to your appointment. Bring any medications you need, healthcare documents and payment methods. Also, feel free to bring reading material, your iPad or iPod as entertainment during any waiting periods.
After you are sedated using a mild anaesthetic, a routine colonoscopy takes about 20 to 45 minutes. This is followed by a recovery time of 1 to 2 hours. Therefore, please expect to be at the centre around 3 hours.
Due to the lasting effects of the sedative medication, you must not drive a vehicle, travel unaccompanied, work, drink alcohol or sign legal documents until a day after your colonoscopy. Please pre-arrange for a friend or family member to pick you up after the procedure and drive you home. We will call them on your behalf to let them know when you’re ready to go home.
If you think you may be pregnant, please tell your doctor before booking a colonoscopy.