Colonoscopy is the gold standard screening tool for colorectal cancer. In fact, each year it is estimated that upwards of 65% of colorectal cancers may be prevented by colonoscopy.
The purpose of a screening colonoscopy is to identify small polyps (precursors to cancer) and remove them to prevent the progression to cancer. When necessary, the large intestine (colon) can also be biopsied during the colonoscopy.
How the Colonoscopy Works
Colonoscopy is a procedure to examine the inner lining of the colon and rectum, using a thin, long, flexible camera, known as a colonoscope, which is long enough to examine the entirety of the colon.
Dr. Zaghiyan performs colonoscopies with intravenous sedation, or “twilight sleep,” The procedure takes about 30 minutes to complete, and about an hour of recovery. During the procedure Dr. Zaghiyan will remove polyps, if any are found. The day before your colonoscopy, we ask that you keep a clear liquid diet and drink a laxative solution to cleanse your colon. The prep solutions Dr. Zaghiyan prescribes are much more gentle and easier to drink than the older, large volume brands on the market.
Recovery from a colonoscopy is usually quick and with little discomfort or nausea. Some patients may feel bloating for a few hours, while others may have some blood in their first bowel movement after the procedure. Generally, patients can resume a regular diet later in the day of the procedure.
Case Study #1
Early colon cancer was identified at the time of colonoscopy. It barely looked like a mass, but the indented and puckered base was a clue that this lesion was not a benign polyp, but an invasive cancer. A small mass like this would not be likely to cause any symptoms. This patient is likely curable, but had she waited to develop symptoms like bleeding or a blockage, the cancer would have been much larger and possibly spread to other organs.
Case Study #2
This is cancer prevention at its best and why everyone should have a colonoscopy according to the American Cancer Society’s new guidelines. A colon polyp: benign, but precancerous. It was removed during the colonoscopy. The patient will be fine. But had this been left alone, to grow and change over a period of several years, this patient’s outcome would have been very different.
In light of recent evidence of increasing early onset colorectal cancer, the American Cancer Society released updated recommendations to begin colon cancer screening starting age 45 in average risk individuals. If you have personal history of other cancers, polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, or a family history of various cancers, screening begins at a much younger age.
This is a huge move in increasing early detection and prevention of colorectal cancer in young patients who present with advanced-stage disease. With growing awareness among all health care providers, and early work-up when even younger patients have symptoms such as rectal bleeding, we can prevent many new cases of colon cancer.