Here is some information to help you learn more about colonoscopy and other endoscopy-related procedures we perform. To learn more, call us at (801) 501-6100
What is a Colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy is a procedure that uses a device called a colonoscope to look at the inside of your colon and rectum. The colonoscope is a long, flexible tube with a tiny video camera at the end. The camera sends images to a monitor, allowing your doctor to see a variety of problems.
Why do I need it?
For people at risk, colonoscopy is the best test to screen for colon cancer, pre-cancerous growths, and polyps. If an abnormal growth or polyp is found, the doctor can remove it, take a biopsy, or recommend surgical removal later. Detecting and removing growths may prevent cancer from developing. The American Cancer Society recommends everyone to have a colonoscopy every 10 years starting at age 50. If you have a strong family history of colorectal cancer, your doctor may recommend you start at an earlier age.
A colonoscopy also helps your doctor see other problems that may be causing abdominal pain, weight loss, or changes in bowel habits. This includes ulcers, narrowed areas, inflammation, or bleeding.
- Colonoscopy is the best test for detecting pre-cancerous polyps and cancer.
- The doctor can often remove polyps (which can prevent potential colon cancer), perform biopsies, and treat problems during the procedure itself.
- Some people have cramps and abdominal swelling. This is caused by the air used to inflate the colon, and passes shortly after the procedure.
- If your doctor takes a biopsy, you may see small amounts of blood in your stool after the procedure. If there’s a lot of blood, you may need another colonoscopy, or possibly surgery.
- There is a slight risk (1 in 2,000) of perforating the colon. This may cause bleeding or infection. If this occurs, you may need immediate surgery to repair the injury.
- If the colon and rectum were difficult to examine or not completely empty, the procedure may not detect some problems.
- As with any medicine, there’s a slight chance you may have a reaction to the sedative.
- Diet changes and/or medication—these give only temporary relief.
- Traditional surgery with one larger incision—this might be necessary if you have scar tissue, have had previous abdominal surgery, or if there are complications during the surgery.
What happens before?
In most cases, you’ll be given a sedative to help you relax. This is given through an intravenous line (IV) inserted into a vein in your arm.
What happens during?
- You’ll lie on your left side while the doctor inserts the colonoscope into your rectum.
- A camera at the tip of the colonoscope sends images to a monitor so the doctor can look closely at the inside lining of your colon. The scope puts air into your colon to infl ate it and give the doctor a better view.
- Your doctor can also insert instruments through the colonoscope to remove polyps, take tissue samples, inject solutions, destroy abnormal tissue, or help widen openings.
What happens after?
- You’ll stay at the facility until you’re partially recovered from the sedative. This usually takes about an hour. However, the sedative can take several hours (up to a full day) to wear off completely. Since you’ll still be sleepy, you’ll need to arrange for a responsible person to drive you home.
- You may feel bloated or have gas for a few hours. You may also see a small amount of blood with your first stool.
- Depending on the quality and findings of this exam, you may need follow-up procedures. Talk with your doctor.
For your convenience you may download and print this Colonoscopy Fact Sheet.
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Colon polyps are a common condition; as many as 20 percent of people over age 50 have a colon polyp. Most polyps are harmless—but some can cause cancer. So if you’re at risk for colon polyps, you should be examined. If you do have a polyp, the doctor will remove it and test it right away.
What is a colon polyp?
A colon polyp is an extra piece of tissue that grows from the lining of the colon (large intestine). It can be flat or mushroom-shaped, small or large. Most are harmless, but a few become cancerous. Once a polyp grows bigger than about ¼ inch, it’s more likely to be cancerous.
What causes colon polyps—and who is at risk?
Polyps form when normal cells grow and divide in an abnormal way. They may create new cells when new cells aren’t needed. Doctors don’t always know why some people get polyps. But they do know who is at risk. Risk factors for colon polyps include:
- Age. Most people with polyps are over age 50.
- Ethnicity. African Americans have a higher rate of colon polyps than other ethnic groups.
- Family history. Polyps, colon cancer, or other diseases of the colon often run in the family.
- Sedentary lifestyle. Inactivity slows your digestion and waste stays in your colon longer. This may increase colon polyps.
- Smoking and alcohol. Smoking and drinking alcohol in excess both significantly increase your risk of colon polyps and cancer.
- Obesity. Being 30 pounds or more overweight encourages the growth of extra cells in the colon and rectum.
- Inherited gene mutations. Some rare inherited conditions can cause hundreds of polyps.
What are the symptoms?
Most small polyps don’t cause symptoms. Often people don’t know they have a colon polyp until the doctor finds it during a checkup or when testing for something else. When symptoms do appear, they may be caused by colon polyps or by something else.
If you have any of the symptoms below, call your doctor to find out what’s causing them:
- Rectal bleeding. You may see blood in your underwear or on toilet paper after you’ve had a bowel movement.
- Blood in your stool. Blood can make stool look black, or it can show up as red streaks in your stool.
- Abdominal pain. A large polyp can obstruct your bowel and cause cramps and constipation.
- Ongoing constipation or diarrhea. Constipation or diarrhea that last more than a week could also indicate a bowel obstruction.
How does the doctor test for colon polyps?
To know if you have a colon polyp, the doctor needs to look inside your colon. Procedures to look inside your colon include:
- Colonoscopy. A long, flexible tube with a tiny video camera at the end is inserted through your rectum. The doctor can see the entire colon, and can remove most polyps to test for cancer.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy. This is similar to colonoscopy, but only looks at the first part of your colon.
- Virtual colonoscopy. Using computer images and x-rays, the doctor creates a picture of the inside of your colon. The doctor can see the entire colon, but cannot remove abnormal tissue.
- Barium enema. The inside of your colon is coated with a contrast dye that helps abnormalities show up better on an x-ray. The doctor can see the entire colon, but cannot remove abnormal tissue.
How are colon polyps treated?
The only way for a doctor to know whether a polyp might become cancer is to look at it under a microscope. For this reason, doctors usually remove and test all polyps.
- Usually the doctor removes it during a sigmoidoscopy or a colonoscopy.
- If the polyp is too large or can’t be reached safely, it may be removed with surgery through the abdomen.
- In rare cases, the doctor may perform an operation to remove your entire colon and rectum.
How can I prevent polyps?
You can greatly lower your risk of developing polyps if you:
- Eat more calcium and folate. These minerals have been shown to decrease the size and number of polyps. Foods rich in calcium include milk, cheese, and broccoli. Foods rich in folate include chickpeas, kidney beans, and spinach.
- Eat less fat. Especially limit saturated fats from animal sources such as red meat.
- Eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Fiber moves food through your colon faster and reduces the amount of time your colon is exposed to any harmful substances.
- Exercise every day. Exercise also moves food through your colon faster.
- Don’t drink much alcohol. Drinking more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men increases your risk of colon cancer.
- Stop smoking. If you can’t stop smoking, then at least cut back.
- Lose extra weight. Fat encourages the growth of cells in the colon.
What if I don’t treat my colon polyps?
If a polyp grows large, it could cause a bowel obstruction. And it could develop into colon cancer. Colon cancer is the third most common cause of cancer deaths—50,000 people die of it every year. But most of these deaths can be prevented if the polyps are treated.
If you’ve had a colon polyp, you have a greater chance of having another one. Be SURE to have regular follow-up examinations. And follow the prevention steps above.
For your convenience you may also download a printer friendly version of this Colon Polyps Fact Sheet.
Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy (PEG)
A Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy tube – also known as a PEG tube – is a long-term feeding tube that can provide nutrition to patients that have difficulty swallowing or are unable to take adequate nutrition or hydration through the mouth. It can be used as a permanent method of feeding, or can be used for a few months and then removed if no longer needed.
The physician performs the procedure using an endoscope - a long flexible tube with a tiny video camera at the end. The endoscope is inserted into the mouth and passed down the esophagus and stomach into the small intestine. The camera sends images to a monitor allowing the physician to see the images in real time. The physician finds a place in the stomach that looks appropriate to place the tube. The area is numbed then a small incision is made. The tube is then placed through the incision. It is held in place by a bumper inside the stomach and a plastic hub outside the abdominal wall. This procedure is typically done under sedation.
The physicians performing this procedure are board certified gastroenterologists. The sedation nurses receive specialized training in IV sedation, and all are ACLS certified. All nursing staff taking care of our pediatric patients are also PALS certified.
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Small Bowel Capsule Endoscopy
A Capsule Endoscopy – sometimes called a Pill Camera – is a very small camera inside a capsule that allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your small intestine. It takes two pictures every second for 8 to 12 hours and transmits those images to a small data recorder that you wear on your hip. It can be used to diagnose and evaluate many disorders of the small intestine, including celiac disease, crohn’s disease, or miniscule blood loss. It is typically only performed after evaluation with an EGD and Colonoscopy.
A nurse will put your information into a data recorder then connect it to sensors on your belly. You will then swallow a capsule about the size of a large multivitamin. It has a small camera in it that takes two pictures every second for 8 to 12 hours. The capsule sends digital images to the data recorder that you will wear on your hip during that time. Once you have swallowed the capsule, we let you go home and return the data recorder and sensors to us at a later date. You will have specific dietary restrictions during the 8 to 12 hour study which we will go over in detail at your appointment. The camera itself is disposable and gets discarded after it passes through your system. When you return the data recorder to us, we upload the images into a computer and a nurse and physician will review the images. This procedure does NOT use sedation.
The physicians analyzing the data are board certified gastroenterologists. The nurses performing the procedure have received specialized training in the use and care of this specific equipment.
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The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and it should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns. More health information is available at www.intermountainhealthcare.org.