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About colonoscopy

Your doctor may recommend colonoscopy if you have developed changes to your bowel habits, if you are experiencing bleeding from your anus or if you have blood in your stool.

A colonoscopy may be carried out as a screening test for bowel cancer. It can also reveal the presence of polyps, which are non-cancerous growths on the lining of the bowel, and other problems in the bowel lining.

Colonoscopy involves inserting a colonoscope – a long fibreoptic tube with a lens or camera on the end – through the anus. Your doctor can then examine the lining of the rectum (the area of colon near your anus) and the entire colon on a screen.

How can I prepare for colonoscopy?

Before the examination, talk to your doctor and ask him or her to explain the procedure. You should also ensure that you tell your doctor about any medications that you're taking. If you are taking any medicines that thin your blood you will be asked to stop these in days leading up to your examination.

Before having a colonoscopy you will need to cleanse your bowel. This will help your doctor examine your colon lining effectively. Your doctor will usually ask you to not eat for between one and three days before your examination. Instead, stick to a clear liquid diet. This includes water, milk-free coffee or tea, broth, clear sodas, sports drinks or strained fruit juice.

Your doctor will ask you to take a laxative to loosen your stool and increase bowel movements the night before the examination. This usually involves drinking a laxative solution every few hours.

Colonoscopies are sometimes carried out under a sedative. This will help you to relax or fall asleep throughout the examination. If you are having a sedative, you should arrange for a friend or family member to help you home after the examination, as you will not be able to drive yourself. 

What happens during my treatment?

Your doctor will first inject you with a sedative if you are having one. You will then be asked to lie on your left side. Your doctor will carefully insert a lubricated colonoscope through your anus. He or she will then gently guide it through the rectum and into the colon.During the examination, air is gently pumped through the colonoscope to inflate the bowel. This helps your doctor see the bowel lining more clearly.

As your doctor guides the colonoscope, he or she will watch the screen to look for any problems in the lining of your bowel.

If your doctor seems a problem, he or she can take a tissue sample by using instruments that pass through the colonoscope. If your doctor sees any polyps, he or she may also remove them with these instruments.

When your doctor has examined up to the end of the colon, he or she will slowly withdraw the colonoscope. The examination usually takes between 30 and 60 minutes.

Are there any complications or risks with colonoscopy?

Like any procedure, colonoscopy carries some risk of complications. It is possible that the lining of the bowel becomes punctured, but this is rare. Infections and bleeding can occur, but they are also uncommon.

If you do experience any pain, bleeding or fever following your examination, tell your doctor immediately.

Recovering from colonoscopy 

You will be able to leave the hospital on the day of your colonoscopy. However, you will usually need to stay for one or two hours in order for the sedative to wear off. You might experience bloating or cramps in your abdomen for about an hour after the examination.

Talk to your doctor about what to expect as you recover from a colonoscopy. If he or she removed a polyp or took a tissue sample, some light bleeding from the anus may be normal.

How much does colonoscopy cost?

For a guide to what you could pay for your treatment, click here.

What to do now

Once you have decided that you would like to be treated at an HCA hospital, or would like further information, here's what to do next:

  1. Call one of our advisors on + 44 (0) 20 7079 4399 or complete our web enquiry form.
  2. Check with your insurance company that your policy covers your treatment, and obtain authorisation.
  3. Visit or call your GP to obtain a referral letter and then call us to make an appointment to visit your chosen consultant and hospital at a time to suit you.
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