Thomas Lyles, MD
As a leading gastroenterologist in Bedford, Dr. Lyles is an expert in colon cancer screening with colonoscopy. Early detection is the key to beating this cancer, so if you are 40+ years of age you should ask your doctor when you need to be screened for colon cancer.
What is a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a procedure that allows a physician to examine the inside of the colon.
How does it work?
Before the colonoscopy, a colon needs to be “prepared” by having all of the colon contents, i.e. stool, purged from the colon. In order to purge the colon, your gastroenterologist will place you on a liquid diet 24-hours before the planned colonoscopy and then you will have to consume a powerful laxative the night before the colonoscopy. This laxative will clear out your colon, which allows your gastroenterologist to be able to clearly see the walls of the colon, identify polyps (pre-cancerous growths) and safely take biopsies of abnormal areas of the colon.
What happens after the colon is prepared for the procedure?
After your colon has been prepared (all stool purged from the colon), you will be given medicines intravenously that will place you into a “twilight sleep.” You continue to breathe on your own and your vital signs (heart rate, blood pressure, percent oxygen in your blood) are monitored throughout the procedure. Once you are in a “twilight sleep,” your gastroenterologist will insert the colonoscope into your rectum and begin the colonoscopy.
Why do I need to undergo a colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy has many important purposes and indications. Most commonly, colonoscopy is used as a procedure to both detect and prevent colon cancer. By undergoing a colonoscopy, your gastroenterologist is able to identify polyps (pre-cancerous growths) and remove them from your colon before they can develop into cancer. A colonoscopy is the only colon cancer test that allows for both detection and prevention of colon cancer.
What are other reasons to undergo a colonoscopy?
In addition to its use as a test for colon cancer, colonoscopy is also indicated if you are experiencing blood loss from your rectum, abnormal abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea, chronic constipation, or if there is an abnormal finding on an imaging study of your abdomen, such as an MRI or a CT (CAT) scan.
What are the risks of undergoing a colonoscopy?
Very rarely, patients can experience a complication from a colonoscopy, such as bleeding from where a polyp is removed, infection, reaction to anesthesia, or a perforation (creating a small tear in the colon).