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A colonoscopy is a very useful procedure that can help your doctor diagnose issues with the large bowel. Here’s what to expect.
The gut is one of the most amazing systems in the body, but it’s still a bit of a mystery to us. The large bowel (also called the colon) is a key component of the gut, and it can suffer from various complaints and conditions. And, unlike a broken bone or a lesion on your skin, it’s almost impossible to find out what’s going on from a scan or an examination.
The best way for a doctor to understand what’s happening in the large bowel is to see inside it using a colonoscopy. This is a very common, and very useful, way for your doctor to diagnose problems and carry out various simple procedures. If you’re due to have a colonoscopy, here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions.
What is a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy allows a doctor to see inside the large bowel using a tiny camera attached to a flexible tube (a colonoscope). It is inserted into the back passage and shows the doctor a magnified image of the bowel directly. The instrument can also take photographs and tissue samples from the bowel at the same time. If the doctor discovers polyps (small warty growths) they can sometimes also remove them during the same procedure1.
What happens before?
You will receive laxatives and instructions about eating and drinking in good time before the procedure. The day before the procedure, you need take the laxatives to clear out your bowel (so that the doctor can get a proper look). Make sure you follow all the instructions about eating and drinking, to make sure you’re properly prepared for your colonoscopy.
What happens during?
The procedure takes place in hospital, and you’ll get a mild sedative to help you relax. The doctor carefully passes the colonoscope through your back passage and into your bowel. The whole thing usually takes around 30 minutes, although this can vary depending on the aim of your colonoscopy1 .
When will I get the results?
The doctor speaks to you immediately after the procedure, to tell you how it went, what they found and if they have any concerns. If they took any tissue samples to test, it can take up to two weeks to get the full results back from the labs. You have a follow-up appointment to get those results and discuss next steps with your doctor1.
I have another question!
If you’re booked in for a colonoscopy, you can speak to your doctor beforehand and ask all of your questions, so they can put your mind at ease.
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