A colonoscopy is a semi-invasive procedure in which a doctor visually examines a patient's colon and, if necessary, removes polyps for biopsy. The procedure involves a special scope, which is run through the rectum and into the colon, or large intestine. The images picked up by the scope are transmitted to a screen, allowing the physician to detect any abnormalities indicating a disease or disorder. Colonoscopies also are used to diagnose colorectal cancer, diverticulosis and Crohn's disease
Colorectal cancer (also known as colon cancer) affects the large intestine, appendix and rectum. It is caused by uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells, crowding out and replacing those that are healthy. This results in tumors, masses of extra tissue causing diarrhea, constipation, blood in the stool, cramping pain and bloating. In the early stages, patients may not experience any symptoms. The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America estimates that 57,000 people die every year from colorectal cancer.
Common in the lower portion of the large intestine, diverticulosis is a condition of having weakened areas, or вЂњpouchesвЂќ in the intestine. Food and bacteria may collect and become trapped causing an inflammation called diverticulitis. It is characterized by pain and tenderness on the lower left side of the abdomen, nausea, vomiting, cramping, and fever. Diverticulitis can lead to serious complications such as bowel obstruction or peritonitis. The condition is typically treated by increasing the intake of dietary fiber and water, antibiotics and rest. Surgery may be required in serious cases.
Polyps are small tissue growths found on the wall of the large intestine. They appear flat or raised and typically are removed during a colonoscopy for biopsy. Polyps sometimes are cancerous. They also have the potential to later become cancer, if they are not removed. Polyps may cause dark or bright red blood in the stool, constipation and diarrhea.
Crohn's disease is caused by inflammation of the digestive system. It is characterized by diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping, ulceration, weight loss and blood in the stool. Complications resulting from Crohn's can be serious and life-threatening, causing malnutrition, bowel obstruction, osteoporosis and fistulas. There are no known causes of Crohn's but it is commonly thought the disease results from the immune system's exaggerated response to bacteria and food. Although there is no cure for Crohn's disease, treatment focuses on lessening the recurrences of inflammation and preventing complications.