Colonoscopy is a diagnostic procedure that allows the doctor to examine the entire length of the large intestine. Colonoscopy can assist in identifying problems with the colon, such as early signs of cancer, inflamed tissue, ulcers, and bleeding. Colonoscopy is also used to screen for colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. and the third most common cancer in men and women, excluding skin cancers.
An endoscope, which is a long, flexible, lighted tube (also called a colonoscope), is inserted through the rectum into the colon. In addition to allowing visualization of the internal colon, the colonoscope enables the doctor to irrigate, suction, inject air, and access the bowel with surgical instruments. During a colonoscopy, the doctor may remove tissue and/or polyps for further examination and possibly treat any problems that are discovered. A colonoscopy is typically an outpatient procedure.
A colonoscopy is the most effective method of detecting cancer in the early stage. Medical experts estimate that early screenings save thousands of lives each year. A colonoscopy may also, be used to examine colon polyps, tumors, ulceration, inflammation, diverticula (pouches), strictures (narrowing), and foreign objects within the colon. It may also be used to determine the cause of unexplained chronic diarrhea or gastrointestinal bleeding or to evaluate the colon after cancer treatment.
There may be other reasons for your doctor to recommend a colonoscopy.