Due to the high mortality associated with colon cancer and the high effectivity and low risks associated with colonoscopy, it is now becoming a routine screening test for people 50 years of age or older. Subsequent rescreenings are then scheduled based on the initial results found, with a five- or ten-year recall being common for colonoscopies that produce normal results. Patients with a family history of colon cancer are often first screened during their teenage years.
Colonoscopy is a test that allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your large intestine. He uses a thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope to look at the colon.
A colonoscopy helps find ulcers, colon polyps, tumors, and areas of inflammation or bleeding. During a colonoscopy, tissue samples can be collected (biopsy) and abnormal growths can be taken out.
Colonoscopy can remove polyps as small as one millimetre or less. Once polyps are removed, they can be studied with the aid of a microscope to determine if they are precancerous or not.
Colonoscopy is similar to, but not the same as, sigmoidoscopy -- the difference being related to which parts of the colon each can examine. A colonoscopy allows an examination of the entire colon (measuring four to five feet in length). A sigmoidoscopy allows an examination of only the final two feet of the colon.
Conditions that call for colonoscopies include gastrointestinal hemorrhage, unexplained changes in bowel habit and suspicion of malignancy. Colonoscopies are often used to diagnose colon cancer, but are also frequently used to diagnose inflammatory bowel disease.
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