- Why do I need a colonoscopy?
- What are the risks for a colonoscopy?
- How do I prepare for my colonoscopy?
- What should I expect when having a colonoscopy?
- What do my colonoscopy results mean?
- Factors that may affect your colonoscopy and what to know about the procedure
- I have some more questions regarding my colonoscopy…
What do my colonoscopy results mean?
After the colonoscopy, your doctor will review your results and then share his or her findings with you. These results can be negative or positive and are explained below:
Although this may seem that the test has results that are concerning, in actual fact a negative test means that your doctor did not find any abnormalities in your colon.
If there was residual stool left in your colon, this may have prevented clear and complete visualisation. In this case, your doctor may recommend a repeat exam.
If you have an average risk of developing colon cancer, meaning there are no other risk factors for cancer, besides your age, then your doctor is likely to recommend that you wait 10 years after which you will have a repeat exam, given your colon preparation was correct and acceptable for this exam.
If your colonoscopy is positive, it means that your doctor may have found polyps or other abnormalities in the colon.
Most polyps found are not cancerous, however, some can have precancerous properties. If polyps were removed during the colonoscopy, they would have been sent to a laboratory to be analysed and to determine if they are precancerous, cancerous or benign.
A follow-up exam will be dependent on the size and the number of the polyps that were found and removed. You may need to have more rigorous screening tests in the future. If one or two polyps were found by your doctor, and they were less than one centimetre (0.4 of an inch) in diameter, then your doctor may suggest you have a repeat colonoscopy in the next five or 10 years, however, this is dependent on your contributing cancer risks.
If your doctor found larger polyps, a larger number of polyps or any polyps that have specific cell characteristics, then you may be advised to have a follow-up colonoscopy within the next three or five years. However, this is also dependent on the cancer risks you may or may not have.
If any polyps were removed during the colonoscopy, then it may be suggested that you have a follow-up procedure in the next three months to a year. If abnormal tissue or a polyp was found in the colonoscopy and could not be removed during the exam, then your doctor may suggest that you have a repeat exam where a specialist will remove the polyps, this specialist is known as a gastroenterologist. In some situations, this specialist performs the initial colonoscopy.
Issues picked up with my colonoscopy
If there is a concern with the scope’s visual quality, then your doctor may recommend you come back for a repeat procedure in the near future. If your doctor was not able to get the scope all the way through your colon, then a virtual colonoscopy or a barium enema may be recommended in order to obtain a clear exam of your entire colon.
A barium enema is a form of an X-ray that is used to detect any abnormalities or changes in your colon (large intestine). In this test, a liquid (known as barium) is injected into the rectum in order to coat the inside of the colon, creating a silhouette thereof on a monitor, and allowing for any abnormalities to be highlighted.
What if there are any abnormalities detected during my colonoscopy?
If your doctor or specialist picks up any abnormalities, and an area needs to be better evaluated, then biopsy forceps may be pushed through a specific channel in the colonoscope in order for a tissue sample to be obtained, this is known as a biopsy. This tissue sample is then sent to a pathology laboratory for it to be examined by a pathologist under a microscope. A pathologist is a scientist who examines biopsies taken from body tissue for forensic and diagnostic purposes.
If an infection is suspected, then a biopsy can be taken for the culturing of bacteria, and in some cases, viruses and fungus, or the biopsy can be examined for parasites under a microscope.
When a colonoscopy is performed due to bleeding or blood being found in the stool, then this bleeding site is able to be identified and controlled during the colonoscopy procedure, if necessary a biopsy can also be done.
If polyps are found, they can also be removed through the colonoscope. Removing these polyps is vital in preventing colon cancer, or colorectal cancer, however, as stated, most polyps are found to be benign (not harmful) and do not result in cancer. Any additional procedures that are performed during a colonoscopy do not typically cause any pain. If a biopsy is done, it can be for a number of reasons and is not always a cause for concern.