What is a colonoscopy?
It is a test that is performed to screen for colon cancer or to assess symptoms of your lower GI tract such as rectal bleeding, change in bowel habits, abdominal pain etc. These symptoms will be evaluated by Dr. Kundhal during your consultation to assess whether a colonoscopy is indicated.
You will receive sedation during your colonoscopy so that you are comfortable. Prior to your procedure you will have to consume a special drink that helps clean out your colon so that it is clean so that the entire colon can be evaluated during the procedues. PLEASES SEE COLONOSCOPY PREPATION INSTRUCTION SHEET.
One of the main reasons this test is done is to detect polyps which can turn to cancer over time and to diagnose colon cancer. Please find common questions answered below.
The Risk of colonoscopy
While colonoscopy is a safe procedure, there are risks that must be understood. The risks of colonoscopy include but are not limited to: (Note this is not meant to be a comprehensive list and is only for information purposes).
- Risk of perforation – this means a tear occurs in the wall of the colon. The incidence of this is 1/1000. It often requires surgery to fix.
- Risk of bleeding
- Risk of missing lesions – no test is perfect. There is a 4-5% chance that polyps or other concerning pathology can be missed during the test. This is often caused poor preparation of the colon and decreased visualization.
Dr. Kundhal will discuss these risks with you in person along with others. Please feel free to ask any questions to Dr. Kundhal in person.
- What is colon cancer? The colon is the organ with the primary function to digest food and absorb of water. Colon Cancer is an abnormal growth that occurs in your colon.
- Who gets colon cancer? Colon cancer is very common and represents the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in Ontario. It affects both men and women. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in men and third leading cause in women. People with a family member with colon cancer may be at increased risk of developing a colon cancer.
- How do I know if I have colon cancer? The only way to know you have colon cancer is to be assessed by an appropriate specialist – either a General Surgeon or Gastroenterologist. If you develop rectal bleeding, change in bowel habits, constipation, dark stools, weight loss or fevers you should be assessed by your family doctor promptly as these symptoms can be caused by colon cancer, as well as other conditions. It should also be noted some patients with colon cancer have no symptoms – these are the types of patients that may benefit from a screening colonoscopy (see below).
- How do I prevent colon cancer? The vast majority of colon cancers start off as non-cancerous growths – called polyps – located on the lining of the colon. Over time these polyps can transform to cancer. Colonoscopy can detect and remove these polyps, which helps to prevent these polyps from transforming to cancer. A screening test is a test performed on a person that does not have the worrisome symptoms of colon cancer. Screening tests for colon cancer in Ontario include colonoscopy and fecal occult blood testing. We recommend a screening test if you are age 50 or over. Please talk to your family doctor to discuss which test is best for you.
- How is colon cancer treated? If colon cancer is caught early it is very treatable. This involves removing the piece of colon with the cancer in it. Some patients require chemotherapy and radiation in addition to surgery. In many cases these cancers can be removed with less invasive surgery, (called laparoscopy), which is done with tiny incisions.
- Take Home Message: Colon cancer is very common. In many cases it can be prevented by timely screening, which can be organized with your family doctor. In my experience as a surgeon in the Brampton community, our community members are not using these screening tests as a way to identify colon cancer. I find this very concerning, because there may be lives saved through use of these tests. Remember: If caught early, colon cancer is very treatable with excellent results. If you are over the age of 50 it is very important to have colon cancer screening tests.