Colonoscopies have become the standard of care as a screening test to diagnose colon polyps. This has made a major impact on the incidence of ever developing colon cancer.
Colon polyps are benign growths that over time enlarge and transform to become colon cancers. They usually have NO symptoms until they are large enough to require surgery. Sometimes, people are lucky and they do have symptoms. They can notice a slight change in their bowel habits or have a small amount of bright red blood in their stool.
Upper endoscopies are used to diagnose acid reflux and its complications, peptic ulcer disease, stomach cancer, malabsorption and digestive syndromes such as Celiac disease and bacterial infections.
A colonoscopy or endoscopy can save your life because each of these procedures allows your doctor to detect pre-cancerous conditions or cancer in its early stages when it is easier to treat. It also allows for the detection of treatable conditions. These are conditions that you may have suffered with for many years.
If you have a pre-cancerous lesion or "polyp", it will be removed during the procedure. The polyp is removed by using cautery to basically peel it away from the intestine so that it cannot re-grow or continue growing.
During a colonoscopy, a gastroenterologist will insert a thin, flexible "tube" into your rectum and travel along your large intestine. The "tube" has a camera and a light at the end. Before starting the procedure, you will receive medication so that you will not feel anything! A colonoscopy takes approximately 20 minutes to complete.
During an endoscopy or EGD, a gastroenterologist will insert a thin, flexible "tube" into your mouth and travel along your esophagus and stomach. The "tube" has a camera and a light at the end. Again, before starting the procedure, you will receive medication so that you will not feel anything! The endoscopy takes approximately 10 minues to complete.
The hardest part of a colonoscopy is the preparation the day before. This requires a fast of at least 24 hours. The fast consists of drinking only liquids from as soon as you wake up in the morning the day before till three hours before the actual test. You can drink what is considered "clear liquids" that are not red or purple. Later in the afternoon, you will need to take the first dose of your laxative followed by more clear liquids to ensure that you do not become dehydrated. About 4 hours prior to your procedure, you will need to take the final dose of your laxative. Both doses of the laxative will produce diarrhea. The day before is the toughest part but can made easier if you drink plenty of fluids the day before and avoid seeds, skins and heavier foods the week before.
An upper endoscopy requires that you not eat or drink anything six hours prior to your test!
Both procedures require that you have someone that you know drive you home!