A colonoscopy is often touted as the “gold standard” of colorectal cancer screening, being the most accurate and efficient method available. With timely colonoscopies, one can even detect and remove pre-cancerous growths, so that they do not even progress into cancer.
With colorectal cancer being the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Singapore, the role of routine screening among higher-risk individuals cannot be overstated.
A colonoscopy is an endoscopic exam used to detect abnormalities or growths in the colon and rectum.
It is made up of a thin, long tube attached to a light source and small video camera at the end. While the patient is under anaesthesia, the colonoscope is gently inserted into the anus and through the entire colon. As the colonoscope goes through, the images captured are projected on a screen in real-time, allowing the doctor to have a clear look of the walls of the rectum and colon.
Should there be any abnormalities spotted, such as a polyp, the doctor can remove it on the spot, so that it does not progress any further. The polyp is then sent for testing at a lab to see if it contains malignant cells or not.
A Singapore colonoscopy takes around 30 minutes, and the patient should feel no pain during and after the procedure.
A colonoscopy is performed under monitored sedation and you will be asleep and comfortable.
Often the most difficult part about the colonoscopy is the preparation for the scope. In order for a colonoscopy to be as accurate as possible, the colon must be clear. When taken as prescribed, the laxatives will result in diarrhoea, allowing the patient to fully empty their bowels and to ensure that the colonoscopy is accurate.
We will also recommend for you to only consume plain, easily digestible foods (low residue diet) starting from two-three days before the scheduled colonoscopy.
Medications such as anti-platelets or anticoagulation (blood-thinners) will be stopped.
Do avoid taking alcohol as this may interact with our sedative medications. Do also stop traditional medicines or some supplements which may cause blood-thinning properties and increase risk of bleeding during the procedure. Our medical team will advise you prior to the procedure.
Please also avoid driving on the day of the procedure.
As mentioned above, colonic polyps are usually removed when detected during a colonoscopy, which eliminates the risk of that polyp ever becoming malignant. This procedure is known as a polypectomy, which can be performed very quickly in experienced hands.
Typically, the polyp will be removed using a wire loop, which will either burn off or cut out the polyp. This process is completely painless as there are no nerve endings in the colon that can sense pain, touch or temperature.
The removed polyp will be sent for testing to determine its nature. If malignancy is detected, further treatment may be needed, as advised by your doctor.
While you should not feel any pain, you may experience some bloating, gassiness or light cramping for a few hours. You may also notice some blood during bowel movements – this is common and will resolve.
However, should you experience heavy bleeding, severe stomach pains or a fever, seek medical attention immediately.
If you are above 50 years old, you should get a colonoscopy done once every 10 years should your results come back normal.
If you have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, then you should be screened at an earlier age and at a closer frequency.
Your doctor will be best poised to assess your individual situation and recommend you a good screening schedule. Be sure to visit an established colonoscopy centre in Singapore for trusted advice and effective care.