Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy is the most effective way to diagnose bowel cancer. A thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope is used to examine the lining of the bowel for abnormalities.

The bowel needs to be completely empty before the test. Your doctor or nurse will tell you what you can eat and drink the day before the test, and you will also take a laxative.

Before the colonoscopy, you may be given a sedative to help you relax. Once you are lying on your side, a thin, very flexible tube with a camera on the end (colonoscope) is passed gently into your back passage. The doctor or nurse will look inside your bowel. They use the camera to take photographs and they may also take samples of cells to be examined later.

Having a colonoscopy can be uncomfortable but is usually not painful. If you are in pain during the test, you can have painkillers.

It can take up to 3 weeks before the results of your colonoscopy are ready. This can be an anxious time. Try talking to someone about how you are feeling.

Having a colonoscopy

A colonoscopy is a way of examining the lining of the bowel from the inside. The procedure is usually done in the hospital outpatient department and takes about an hour. It is the most thorough and effective way of diagnosing bowel cancer. The colonoscopy can also see whether there are any polyps in your bowel.

The bowel has to be completely empty for a colonoscopy. This means following a careful diet for a few days before your test. You will also need to take laxatives, which the screening centre or hospital pharmacy will provide. The department carrying out your colonoscopy will give you instructions about your diet, and about exactly when to take your laxatives.

Shortly before the colonoscopy, you may be given a sedative to help you feel relaxed. Once you are lying comfortably on your side, the nurse or doctor will gently pass a thin flexible tube (a colonoscope) into your back passage. The tube is made up of flexible fibres so it can easily pass around the curves of the bowel. A tiny light and camera on the end of the tube are used to show any abnormal areas.

During the colonoscopy, photographs and samples (biopsies) of the cells on the inside of the large bowel can be taken. Most polyps can be painlessly removed using a wire loop that is passed down the colonoscope. A colonoscopy can be uncomfortable, but the sedative will help you feel more relaxed.

Most people are ready to go home a couple of hours after their test. You will need to arrange for someone to collect you from the hospital as you should not drive for several hours after a sedative. You should also have someone with you for about 12 hours afterwards.

Sometimes it is not possible to see the whole bowel during a colonoscopy. This can happen if the bowel is not completely empty or if the colonoscope can't pass around a bend in the bowel to reach the end. If this happens, you may be asked to have another colonoscopy or a CT colonogram.


What happens?

Shortly before the colonoscopy, you may be given a sedative to help you feel relaxed. Once you're lying comfortably on your side, the nurse or doctor will gently pass a thin flexible tube (a colonoscope) into your back passage. The tube is made up of flexible fibres so it can easily pass around the curves of the bowel. A tiny light and camera on the end of the tube are used to show any abnormal areas.

During the colonoscopy, photographs and samples (biopsies) of the cells on the inside of the large bowel can be taken. A colonoscopy can be uncomfortable, but the sedative will help you feel more relaxed.


Afterwards

Most people are ready to go home a couple of hours after their test. You'll need to arrange for someone to collect you from the hospital as you shouldn't drive for several hours after a sedative. You should also have someone with you for about 12 hours afterwards.

Sometimes it's not possible to see the whole bowel during a colonoscopy. This can happen if the bowel isn't completely empty or if the colonoscope can't pass round a bend in the bowel to reach the end. If this happens, you may be asked to have another colonoscopy, or a CT colonogram.