Although most doctors recommend a colonoscopy to patients older than 50 years, the American Cancer Society (ACS) says too few Americans are getting this screening test for colon cancer, the third leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

Here are some basic facts about colonoscopy from the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse...

· Colonoscopy lets physicians look inside the large intestine, from the rectum and colon to the lower end of the small intestine. Using a lighted tube, it enables physicians to see, and possibly remove, inflamed tissue and abnormal growths as well as treat ulcers and bleeding.

· For the 3O- to 5o-mirrute procedure, a patient lies on his/her left side on the examining table. Pain medication and a mild sedative are usually administered to help patients relax during the exam. After the procedure, the patient may need to stay at the facility for a few hours until the sedative wears off.

· Because the colon must be completely empty for the colonoscopy to be thorough and safe, patients must follow a clear liquid diet, prior to the procedure. This diet may include fat-free bouillon or broth, strained fruit juice, water, plain coffee, plain tea or diet soda. Gelatin or popsicles in any color but red may also be eaten. A laxative must also be taken the night before the procedure.

Be sure to inform your doctor before the procedure of any medical conditions or medications that you take.

Want to Keep Reading?

Continue reading with a Health Confidential membership.

Sign up now Already have an account? Sign in