The term “colonoscopy” means looking inside the colon. It is a procedure performed by a gastroenterologist or surgeon, either of whom is a well-trained subspecialist.
Colonoscopy is more precise than an X-ray. This procedure also allows other instruments to be passed through the colonoscope. These may be used, for example, to painlessly remove a suspicious-looking growth or to take a biopsy-a small piece for further analysis. In this way, colonoscopy may help to avoid surgery or to better define what type of surgery may need to be done.
Colonoscopy is a safe and effective way to evaluate problems such as blood loss, pain, and changes in bowel habits such as chronic diarrhoea or abnormalities that may have first been detected by other tests. Colonoscopy can also identify and treat active bleeding from the bowel.
Colonoscopy is also an important way to check for colon cancer and to treat colon polyps – abnormal growths on the inside lining of the intestine. Polyps vary in size and shape and, while most are not cancerous, some may turn into cancer. However, it is not possible to tell just by looking at a polyp if it is malignant or potentially malignant. This is why colonoscopy is often used to remove polyps, a technique called a polypectomy.
Indications for colonoscopy are:
- Rectal bleeding
- Iron deficiency anaemia
- Abdominal pain and alteration in bowel habit
- The presence of colorectal cancer risk factors
- Clarification of barium enema findings
- Positive Faecal occult blood test
- Indication for repeat colonoscopy
- Patients with previous bowel polyps or cancer
- Surveillance of inflammatory bowel disease
- Patients with a family history of bowel cancer or polyps in first degree relatives