Bowel cancer: The ‘gold-standard’ method to detect pre-cancerous polyps – colonoscopy

GMB : Adela Roberts discusses her bowel cancer diagnosis

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The risk of bowel cancer steeply rises from the age of 50. Particularly prevalent, bowel cancer is the fourth most common malignant tumour in the UK. Yet, when caught early, the disease is curable. OneWelbeck – a private healthcare provider – recommends bowel screening from the age of 45 to support early stage detection and prevention action. On the NHS, bowel cancer screening is offered every two years from the age of 60 to 74.

If, however, a person is experiencing symptoms of bowel cancer, speaking to your doctor about getting a colonoscopy is the best next step.

Bowel cancer symptoms

  • More than 90 percent of people with bowel cancer have one of the following combinations of symptoms, according to the NHS:
  • A persistent change in bowel habit
  • Blood in poo (without other symptoms of piles)
  • Abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating always brought on by eating.

Expanding on these symptoms, the NHS added that a persistent change in bowel habits includes “pooing more often, with looser, runnier poos and sometimes tummy pain”.

Stomach pain might lead to a reduction in the amount of food eaten, consequently leading to weight loss.

A colonoscopy

The NHS explained a colonoscopy is a test to check inside of the bowels, which requires a “long, thin, flexible tube with a small camera inside it is passed into your bottom”.

Before the procedure, to make sure the bowels are empty for the test, you will be given a laxative.

When a colonoscopy is performed, you will usually be awake during the procedure.

However, medication will be offered to make the experience “more comfortable”, which may include:

  • Painkillers
  • Sedation
  • Gas and air.

“Not all hospitals offer all these things – ask about what you can have,” the NHS added.

At OneWelbeck, however, they routinely offer conscious sedation when a bowel screening procedure is performed.

The healthcare provider added that once the scope is inserted into the bowel, the consultant “gently pumps some carbon dioxide gas or water inside”.

This opens the large bowel so that the consultant can see the bowel lining clearly.

The procedure is expected to be “painless”, in addition to any removal of any polyps.

While the colonoscopy should take between 30 to 45 minutes, as pointed out by the NHS, you can expect to be in hospital for around two hours.

Patients are cautioned that stomach cramps or a feeling of bloating may occur two to three hours following a colonoscopy.

“You may also have some blood in your poo or bleeding from your bottom. These things are common,” the NHS added.

Within a couple of weeks, on the NHS, you should receive your colonoscopy results.

You can either get a “normal result”, meaning no polyps or cancer was found in your bowel.

If polyps were detected and removed, you will be told if you need to come back for further treatment.

And, if cancer is detected, you will be referred to a cancer specialist to begin treatment.

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