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2014 Washington Street
Newton, MA 02462
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Studies have shown that patients who receive regular colonoscopies have a lower risk of dying from colorectal cancer. We encourage everyone who is at risk for developing colorectal cancer to have a colonoscopy on a regular basis.
Colonoscopies allow our expert doctors to find and remove polyps, small growths within the colon, often before they have a chance to develop into colorectal cancer, as well as cancerous tissue in its early stages. Finding polyps and colorectal cancer early increases our patients’ chances of successful treatment.
According to the American Cancer Society, most people at average risk of colorectal cancer should begin screening at 45. Your doctor might recommend that you start sooner if you’re at increased risk for the disease because of a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or related conditions.
For many patients, the process of preparing for a colonoscopy starts about a week before the scheduled exam. If you take certain medications to treat diabetes [link to Diabetes, page ID 7.8] or heart disease, especially blood thinners or anticoagulants, your doctor may ask you to change your dosages or stop taking these medications, as they can increase your risk of bleeding during the exam.
The next step of preparing for a colonoscopy involves restricting your diet. Because your doctor must be able to clearly see polyps and other areas inside your colon during the exam, your colon must be completely clean ahead of time. Your doctor likely will ask you to not eat any solid foods for at least 24 hours before your colonoscopy. You will still be allowed to have clear liquids, such as:
Next, you will need to clean your colon out ahead of your colonoscopy. Your doctor will prescribe a laxative that will cause you to have frequent bowel movements, similar to diarrhea. We understand that this is unpleasant, but it is a vital part of preparing your colon for the procedure. It’s best to stay close to a bathroom during this time and to wear clothing that is easy to remove when you need to go to the bathroom, such as sweatpants with an elastic waistband.
Finally, make sure you arrange to have someone available to drive you home after your colonoscopy. You’ll be sedated during the procedure, so it won’t be safe for you to drive yourself afterward.
During your exam, you’ll lie on a table, where you’ll receive a sedative to relax you and make you sleep. Your doctor will insert a colonoscope, a thin, flexible tube with a video camera on the tip, through your rectum and into your colon.
The colonoscope inflates your colon with air so your doctor can see inside more easily. Your doctor can also use the colonoscope to remove samples of colon tissue for testing, called a biopsy, or remove polyps from your colon if needed. The colonoscopy will take about 30 minutes to an hour to complete.
After the procedure, you’ll be in a recovery room for about an hour to wake up from your sedative. You likely won’t remember anything from the colonoscopy. Once you’ve recovered, you can go home.
You might feel bloated or pass gas as the air from the colonoscopy leaves your colon. This is normal. You also might notice a little blood with your first bowel movement after your colonoscopy, and this is normal as well. Call your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms following your colonoscopy, as these can be signs of complications:
Your doctor will review your test results and share them with you. You likely won’t need another colonoscopy for 10 years if nothing abnormal appears during your exam. However, your doctor may order follow-up tests if your test revealed polyps, precancerous tissue, or cancerous tissue. Your doctor may also order a repeat colonoscopy if your colon wasn’t clear enough during the procedure.
In addition to the standard colonoscopy described above, we also offer a procedure called virtual colonoscopy, also known as CT colonography. This procedure uses a computed tomography (CT) scan to see inside your colon, rather than a colonoscope. There’s no sedative involved and no need for a driver after the test.
A virtual colonoscopy is a good alternative for some patients who can’t have a standard colonoscopy because of a medical condition, inability to change their medication dosages, or other reasons. However, it doesn’t entirely replace the standard test. If a virtual colonoscopy reveals any polyps or potentially cancerous tissue, you’ll still need a standard colonoscopy so your doctor can remove this tissue. Learn more about our virtual colonoscopy.
Whether your doctor recommends a virtual colonoscopy or the standard exam, it’s vital to get tested regularly so you can prevent colorectal cancer or catch it early for the best possible outcome.
Call your primary care provider to schedule a colonoscopy.
2014 Washington Street
Newton, MA 02462 Get Directions
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