What is the colon?

The colon (large bowel or large intestine) is the last portion of your digestive (gastrointestinal) tract. The colon is a hollow tube about 5 feet long that starts at the end of the small intestine and ends at the rectum and anus. Its main function is to store unabsorbed food waste and absorb water and other body fluids before the waste is eliminated as stool.

What is colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a screening exam used to check for colorectal cancer, also commonly referred to as colon cancer. This screening allows a doctor to see inside of the colon and rectum to look for polyps, which could be early signs of cancer. Polyps are small growths that, over time, can become cancer. (Read more about colon polyps.) The doctor will then insert a long, flexible, lighted tube into your rectum and slowly guide it through your colon. This is gently eased inside of the colon to transmit pictures to a television screen. By blowing air into the colon and inflating it, the tube helps give the doctor a better view. Gentle abdominal pressure is often used to help guide the scope. While this process takes around 30 to 60 minutes, patients are typically given medicine to help them relax or sleep during the exam. Typically it is recommended tests start at age 50 and are given every ten years. If you are at a higher risk to colon cancer, this will vary upon your doctors recommendation.

Will it hurt?

Overall, most patients don’t find a colonoscopy painful. However, discomfort always varies on the individual. Patients are typically given pain medication and a sedative to keep you comfortable and help them relax during the procedure. Seeing as air is puffed into the colon throughout the process to keep the colon open, some patients experience a discomfort or cramping due to air pressure. Just like every medical procedure, there are possible complications that may occur. Bleeding and puncture of the colon are rare instances but should be reported to your doctor immediately should you experience either. Rarely do people experience severe abdominal pain, fever, bloody bowel movements, dizziness, or weakness following a procedure. If you have any of these side effects, contact your physician immediately.

Who will preform this exam?

Colonoscopy is almost always done by a doctor, usually a gastroenterologist (a doctor whose specialty is the digestive tract) or a surgeon. This procedure is preformed in a private room which may be at a hospital outpatient department, a clinic, an ambulatory surgery center, or a doctor’s office.

Southeast Valley Gastroenterology (SEVG) is a well established, academically oriented group in metropolitan Phoenix that specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of gastrointestinal diseases. At SEVG, our goal is to provide high quality, state-of-the-art medical care where the patient’s well-being is always the primary consideration. We provide comprehensive care including all endoscopic services (Screening Colonoscopy, Upper Endoscopy, Endoscopic Ultrasound, ERCP, Capsule Endoscopy) and consultative care. It is our vision to be the region’s leading comprehensive center for the treatment of digestive disorders where service excellence and patient experience remain the number one goal. We thank you for visiting our site and look forward to serving you. Read more about a colonoscopy at South East Valley Gastroenterology.