A colonoscopy is an examination to look directly at the lining of the large intestine or colon using a colonoscope. This is a flexible tube about the thickness of a woman’s index finger with a camera at the tip). In some cases, a sample of the lining of the bowel (a biopsy) is taken for laboratory examination. If polyps are found, they can be removed during the examination
Why have a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is carried out for a variety of reasons. These include:
Investigating Intestinal Symptoms
A colonoscopy can help your doctor investigate possible causes of rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, constipation or other intestinal issues.
If you are at an average risk of colon cancer and are aged 50 or over, your doctor may suggest a colonoscopy every 10 years, or in some cases sooner. How often you should undergo a colonoscopy depends on the level of risk for cancer and the abnormalities found at previous colonoscopies.
Looking for Additional Polyps
If you have had polyps before, or if you have a family history of suffering with polyps, your doctor may suggest a follow-up colonoscopy to monitor your bowel and search for and remove any additional polyps. This is carried out to help reduce your risk of colon cancer.
You may be offered a colonoscopy as part of the national bowel cancer-screening programme. Bowel cancer screening is available to anyone between the ages of 60 and 74, every 2 years. The first stage of the screening programme involves the use of a kit that can be completed at home. You take a sample, which is then tested for traces of blood that cannot be noticed by sight. If blood is discovered, you will then be offered a colonoscopy. People over the age of 74 can request a screening kit every 2 years by calling the government helpline.
Preparing for a Colonoscopy
In order to achieve a successful colonoscopy and allow a clear view of the colon, your bowel must be as empty as possible. It is important to follow the advice given about bowel preparation.
If the bowel is not sufficiently empty, the whole procedure may have to be cancelled and repeated on a different date. This is due to the high possibility of the doctor missing important signs.
As part of your preparation, you will be given a laxative and you will need to discuss any medications you are taking with your pre-assessment nurse. Please ensure you have a list of your current medication available during your pre-assessment. It is especially important to remember to bring any asthma inhalers or angina sprays with you.
Please make sure you remove your nail polish and all types of false nails before attending your procedure and bring with you your dressing gown, slippers, and something to read during your stay. In some cases, people feel a spare set of underwear is useful.
When your doctor requests the colonoscopy, you will be provided with information on how to prepare for it, what products to use, and what you can expect. This information will break down what you need to do by the day.
Upon arrival, you will be shown to the Endoscopy Unit and your allocated room. A nurse will check your details, explain the test and check your blood pressure, and pulse. If you are allergic to anything (such as medicine, latex, plasters) please inform the nurse at this time and do not hesitate to ask any questions you may have. You will need to remove all your clothes, glasses, contact lenses, tongue studs and dentures and put on a hospital gown.
You will be given a sedative and/or painkiller via injection before the examination. This will help you relax. This will be left lightly taped to your hand/arm until you recover from the procedure, and then removed after the procedure is completed.
You will be given oxygen via a small tube up your nose and have a device called a finger probe attached to you to monitor your pulse and breathing. A cuff will also be placed on your arm to monitor your blood pressure (please inform the nurse if there is a reason why a certain arm cannot be used).
Prior to the procedure, a rectal examination will be performed by the doctor. Whilst you are lying comfortably on your left side, the doctor will gently insert the colonoscope into your back passage and pass it around the large bowel. Air will be passed into the bowel to expand it so the bowel lining can be seen more clearly. This may cause some discomfort, but it will not last long.
A biopsy (a small sample of the lining of your bowel) may be taken during the examination to be sent to the laboratory for further testing. Similarly, any polyps may be removed during the examination, but you will not feel any pain.
A colonoscopy generally takes around 30 – 45 minutes, although the appointment itself will last longer than this.
After the procedure is complete, you will return to the ward to rest. Once recovered, you are allowed to eat and drink as normal. You may feel a little lightheaded for the rest of the day as a result of sedation.
The doctor will tell you the results of the examination before you leave to go home. Any biopsy results will take longer.
Hints and Tips
- If you are on the contraceptive pill, please use an additional method of protection until your next period.
- Use baby wipes and baby cream instead of toilet paper as the bowel cleanser can make your bottom sore.
- Stay near a toilet.
- Do not take any medication 1 hour before the procedure or 1 hour after taking the bowel preparation.
- Drink at least 1 litre of fluid on top of the bowel preparation.
Drinking the preparation through a straw helps as it avoids the sweet receptors in the mouth. Drink small sips regularly. You can add squash to give it a different flavour (real lemon or lime juice) but nothing red or purple.
Aftercare and Results
If you had the sedative injection, you must have a friend or relative with transport to collect you from the ward and stay with you at home for at least 24 hours until you are fully recovered. You must not drive, drink alcohol, operate machinery (including all kitchen appliances), or sign important documents for 24 hours following the sedative.
You may notice that your bowels do not return to normal for a few days following the procedure; do not worry, as this is entirely normal.
You may notice a small amount of blood with your first bowel movement following the exam. This is usually not a cause for alarm; however, contact your doctor if you continue to pass blood or blood clots, or if you have continuous abdominal pain or a fever. Although unlikely, this may occur immediately or in the first few days following the procedure, but can be delayed for up to 1 – 2 weeks. If you need pain relief, you can take over-the-counter pain medication such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.
A colonoscopy can be considered successful if the doctor finds any polyps or abnormal tissue in the colon. The majority of polyps are not cancerous, but some can be pre-cancerous. Your doctor will suggest another colonoscopy sooner if you have:
- More than 2 polyps
- A large polyp (larger than 1cm)
- Polyps or remaining stools in the colon that prevents a thorough examination of the colon
- Polyps that indicate a higher risk of developing cancer
- Cancerous polyps
A colonoscopy is a very safe procedure, but as with all invasive treatment, there are some risks associated with it. These include:
- A reaction to the sedative. The sedative can affect your breathing, making it slower and shallow
- When a biopsy is taken or a polyp is removed, there may be a little bleeding, although this is rare. However, if it does not stop within 24 hours, or is excessive, please contact the hospital or your GP practice.
- Perforation. This is a little tear in the wall of the colon. Again, this is rare, but if does occur, would require a short stay in hospital and treatment with antibiotics, or very occasionally, a surgical repair
- A bloated sensation
- While these complications are rare, it is important to identify early signs so you can take the correct course of action. Make sure you contact your doctor if you notice severe abdominal pain, rectal bleeding of more than half a cup, or fever and chills.
At One Ashford Hospital we can book you in to see a specialist Consultant for an initial consultation, usually within 48 hours.
One Ashford Hospital is based in Kent, meaning that we are well placed to see patients from Ashford, Canterbury, Maidstone, Dover, Folkestone and all surrounding areas. Call us on 01233 423000 to find out more about private colonoscopy surgery.
You can use your private medical insurance or pay for your Colonoscopy treatment. We offer competitive, fixed price packages as well as the ability to spread your cost with the option of 0% finance. If you are using your health insurance, please contact your insurer first for approval and let them know you’d like to be treated at One Ashford Hospital
Why One Ashford Hospital
- Access to leading Consultants within 48 hours*
- 0% and low interest finance options**
- Competitive fixed-price packages
- Modern purpose-built hospital
- Private, spacious, ensuite rooms
- Specialist Physiotherapy and nursing teams
- Little waiting time for surgery
- Calm, dignified experience
*Dependent on Consultant availability
**Terms and conditions apply
Contact us and find out moreIf you are based in and around Kent, Maidstone, Dover, Canterbury or Folkestone and would like to visit the One Ashford Hospital please click here
Endoscopy Pricing Guide at One Ashford Hospital
This is a list of guide prices for some of common Endoscopy treatments and procedures.
|Treatment||Guide Price||Monthly from|
|Combined Colonoscopy & Gastroscopy||£2,290||£52.51|
Fast access for an answer to your symptoms
- State of the art endoscopy equipment
- Purpose-built hospital
- Dedicated endoscopy suite
- Dedicated endoscopy team
- Consultant-led care throughout your journey