Colonoscopy refers to the endoscopic or camera examination carried out on the large bowel or colon. It is accepted as being one of the most effective bowel cancer screening methods.

What is a colonoscopy?

Procedures are carried out by experienced London endoscopists such as Mr Windsor using a colonoscope; a long flexible tube which holds a small video camera. The colonoscope is guided through the whole length of the colon up to the start of the small bowel, also known as the terminal ileum. An endoscopist can then carefully the whole colon with images seen on a monitor.

The endoscopy examination typically lasts for twenty minutes to half an hour. Most patients will receive some gentle sedation during the procedure to alleviate any discomfort. Some patients, however, do not feel the need for this. If any abnormality is seen during the colonoscopy the endoscopist can either remove of biopsy these areas. This is not painful.

Reasons to undergo a colonoscopy

There are several reasons why a colonoscopy may be performed. They include rectal bleeding, bowel habit alterations, weight loss, anaemia, suspected polyp, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea, and as part of the monitoring process for conditions like inflammatory bowel disease. A colonoscopy may also be performed as part of a general health check.

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The colonoscopy procedure

During a colonoscopy, the large bowel is examined for polyps via endoscopy, which are growths which can appear in the bowel’s lining. They are typically of a non-cancerous nature, and as many as 40% in the over 50 age bracket who undergo a colonoscopy are seen to have polyps, many of which are entirely harmless.

Evidence suggests that colon cancer can be prevented by the removal of polyps, which can be performed via a polypectomy procedure as part of a colonoscopy. Following a polypectomy, a follow-up colonoscopy between one and 10 years later is often recommended to check for further growths.

Colonoscopy – day of the endoscopy examination

A colonoscopy often requires bowel preparation by the patient on the day prior to the examination. Tests are typically uncomfortable rather than highly painful, and sedation can be provided if needed. The bowel is expanded with the use of gas, giving the endoscopist an unrestricted view. Polyps are typically removed without pain, by a device which works through the colonoscope, before the colonoscope is removed, along with the excess gas. Removed polyps are sent to a laboratory for testing, with results usually available after a few days.

A short amount of recovery time in hospital is needed for patients who received sedation, while drowsiness, wind and cramps can be experienced in the hours following the examination. In cases where large polyps were removed during the procedure, a day’s rest at home is recommended, with strenuous exercise being avoided. Driving or drinking alcohol in the 24 hours following the colonoscopy is not advised.

Contact a London colonoscopy expert

If you live in London, suffer from any of the symptoms detailed above, and would like to make an enquiry, please contact Mr Alastair Windsor by completing this online contact form. Any information you send is treated as confidential.