Everything you need to know about a colonoscopy
19th January, 2023

Written by

Saima Mazhar - Partner, Head of Medical Negligence

Having a colonoscopy can be scary or considered by some to be a time-consuming inconvenience. However, health professionals say that getting a screening is important and people shouldn’t be afraid as it is considered to be the best protection against bowel cancer.   

So, considering the importance of this simple (although unpleasant) produce – how might you get yourself prepared? Here are some important things to know.  

What is the procedure? 

A colonoscopy is a process of checking the inside of your bowels, and is designed to help determine what is causing troublesome bowel symptoms. The process involves having a small camera within a flexible tube passed through your bowels, which allows medical professionals to determine the cause of your symptoms.  


How long does a colonoscopy take? 

According to the NHS a colonoscopy should take between 30-45 minutes. 


Why is a colonoscopy needed? 

The NHS says a colonoscopy is carried out to determine why certain bowel symptoms are occurring for example: 

  • Your bottom is bleeding or there is blood in your poo 
  • Prolonged diarrhoea or constipation 
  • Losing weight or feeling tired for no reason 

In most cases the NHS say that nothing is found to worry about, yet sometimes the procedure may find something that requires a closer look and further testing. 

Other reasons that you may need a colonoscopy include checking any unexplained growth within your bowels this is often harmless but the NHS states that growths could become cancerous, therefore if they are found they need to be checked.  

The procedure can also help identify the following conditions: 

Sometimes these conditions can be difficult to diagnose and could require further tests before a full diagnosis is made. 


How to prepare for a colonoscopy? 

In order to carry out a colonoscopy, your bowels need to be clear, and this part of the process often takes longer than the procedure itself. To make the process easier, you should be provided laxatives to ensure your bowels are clear. 


What can I eat before a colonoscopy?  

In the day leading up to your colonoscopy, the NHS advises you that you should have a small breakfast such as boiled egg on white toast no later than 9am. For the rest of the day, it is recommended that you do not eat any solid foods and should opt for liquid options such as clear strained soup and to try and drink 2 litres of water. The advice given to patients also says alcohol should not be consumed. 

On the day of your colonoscopy, the NHS advises that you drink plenty of clear fluids such as water up to 3 hours before your procedure, and you should not eat anything. 


Bowel cancer – treatable when detected early 

Commenting on recent research Harvard University in October 2022 understood that the study into the effectiveness of coloscopies reduced the number of bowel cancer patients by 31% of those that took part in the study. Deaths as a result of bowel cancer following colonoscopies in this study were reduced by 50%. The effectiveness of the procedure is further supported by previous research published in 2020, which showed that having a colonoscopy can reduce new cases of bowel cancer by as much as 69% and reduce the risk of death from the cancer by as much as 88%. 

According to Cancer Research UK every 1 in 15 males and 1 in 18 females will be diagnosed with bowel cancer in their lifetime making it one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the UK. However, research published by the Canadian Cancer Society shows that when detected early, through procedures such as a colonoscopy, it can be treated and can even become more survivable than other types of cancer. 


Who should get a screening? 

Within England, Wales and Northern Ireland, bowel cancer screening checks are offered by the NHS to people between the ages of 60 and 74. However this programme is expected to be expanding over a 4 year period which began in April 2021 with the age range coming down for screenings to 50-59 years of age.  


Cancer negligence 

If you or your child has suffered medical negligence relating to cancer, our medical negligence experts are here to help, and have supported many people in a similar situation. In the past we have helped patients just like you claim compensation as a result of cancer negligence. 

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