Colovoscopy

Colovoscopy

A colonoscopy (koe-lun-OS-kuh-pee) is an exam used to detect changes or abnormalities in the large intestine (colon) and rectum.

During a colonoscopy, a long, flexible tube (colonoscope) is inserted into the rectum. A tiny video camera at the tip of the tube allows the doctor to view the inside of the entire colon.

If necessary, polyps or other types of abnormal tissue can be removed through the scope during a colonoscopy. Tissue samples (biopsies) can be taken during a colonoscopy as well.

  • Why it's done
  • During the procedure

Your doctor may recommend a colonoscopy to:

  • Investigate intestinal signs and symptoms. A colonoscopy can help your doctor explore possible causes of abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, chronic constipation, chronic diarrhea and other intestinal problems.
  • Screen for colon cancer. If you're age 50 or older and at average risk of colon cancer — you have no colon cancer risk factors other than age — your doctor may recommend a colonoscopy every 10 years or sometimes sooner to screen for colon cancer. Colonoscopy is one option for colon cancer screening. Talk with your doctor about your options.
  • Look for more polyps. If you have had polyps before, your doctor may recommend a follow-up colonoscopy to look for and remove any additional polyps. This is done to reduce your risk of colon cancer

During a colonoscopy, you'll wear a gown, but likely nothing else. Sedation is usually recommended. Sometimes a mild sedative is given in pill form. In other cases, the sedative is combined with an intravenous pain medication to minimize any discomfort.

You'll begin the exam lying on your side on the exam table, usually with your knees drawn toward your chest. The doctor will insert a colonoscope into your rectum.

The scope — which is long enough to reach the entire length of your colon — contains a light and a tube (channel) that allows the doctor to pump air or carbon dioxide into your colon. The air or carbon dioxide inflates the colon, which provides a better view of the lining of the colon.

When the scope is moved or air is introduced, you may feel abdominal cramping or the urge to have a bowel movement.