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The colon, or large intestine, plays a significant role in your digestive system.

It’s responsible for absorbing water, electrolytes, and forming stool for elimination.
Unfortunately, the colon is also susceptible to a range of conditions, including colorectal cancer.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the world of colon health and explore the essential tool known as a colonoscopy.

We’ll discuss why colonoscopies matter, when they are recommended, and what to expect from this procedure.

Ultimately, this guide aims to shed light on how a colonoscopy can be beneficial to you and your
long-term health.


Understanding the Colon


The colon is the final part of the digestive tract, measuring around five feet in length.

It begins at the cecum, a pouch-like structure where the small intestine connects, and extends to the rectum, where stool is stored before elimination.

The colon’s primary functions include:

  • Absorbing Water: It reabsorbs water from the digested food, turning the liquid chyme into a semi-solid stool.
  • Electrolyte Absorption: The colon absorbs electrolytes like sodium and potassium, which are essential for bodily functions.
  • Stool Formation: The colon plays a crucial role in forming and compacting stool for excretion.

Due to its crucial role in the digestive process, maintaining colon health is vital.
One essential tool for this purpose is the colonoscopy.


colonoscopy procedure - Exploring Colonoscopy: A Vital Tool for Colon Health


What Is a Colonoscopy?


A colonoscopy is a medical procedure that allows a healthcare provider, typically a gastroenterologist, to examine the inner lining of the colon and rectum using a long, flexible, and thin tube with a camera and light at the end, called a colonoscope.

The procedure is performed to detect abnormalities, such as polyps, inflammation, or cancer.


Preparation for a Colonoscopy

Before a colonoscopy, patients are required to follow specific preparation instructions.
This often involves:

  • A clear liquid diet for a day or two before the procedure.
  • The use of laxatives or enemas to cleanse the colon.
  • Fasting for a certain period before the colonoscopy.

The goal of the preparation is to ensure the colon is as clear as possible for a thorough examination.

colon health colonoscopy - Exploring Colonoscopy: A Vital Tool for Colon Health

Why Colonoscopy Matters


Colonoscopy is a crucial tool in the early detection and prevention of colorectal cancer and other colon-related conditions.

Here’s why it matters:


Colonoscopy as a Preventive Screening


Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women worldwide, with over a million new cases diagnosed annually.

However, it is also one of the most preventable cancers when detected early.


Colon Cancer: A Preventable Tragedy


The majority of colorectal cancer cases begin as non-cancerous polyps, which are abnormal growths in the colon. Over time, some of these polyps may become cancerous.

A colonoscopy allows for the detection and removal of these polyps before they can develop into cancer.

In essence, a colonoscopy serves as a proactive and potentially life-saving measure.


When Is a Colonoscopy Recommended?


Colonoscopy is recommended in several situations, including:

Screening Guidelines


  • Age: In the United States, colorectal cancer screening is recommended for adults starting at age 45 to 50. However, the age at which screening is recommended may vary by country and specific risk factors.
  • Family History: Individuals with a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps may need to start screening at a younger age or have more frequent screenings.
  • Personal History: If you have a history of colorectal cancer, you will likely require more frequent colonoscopies for surveillance.
  • Symptoms: If you experience symptoms such as unexplained abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, or unexplained weight loss, your healthcare provider may recommend a colonoscopy to investigate the cause.
  • Positive Stool Test: A positive result from a fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) may necessitate a colonoscopy for further evaluation.


colonoscopy procedure benefits - Exploring Colonoscopy: A Vital Tool for Colon Health


Colonoscopy Procedure: What to Expect


The actual colonoscopy procedure typically takes about 30 minutes to an hour, although the entire process, including preparation and recovery, may span several hours. Here’s what you can expect:


Sedation and Comfort


You will be sedated to ensure you are comfortable and relaxed during the procedure. The colonoscope is then gently inserted through the rectum and advanced through the colon.

The camera at the end of the scope provides real-time images of the colon’s lining, allowing the gastroenterologist to closely examine the area for polyps, inflammation, or other abnormalities.

If polyps are found during the procedure, they can often be removed during the same examination. Tissue samples (biopsies) may also be collected for further analysis if needed.

Colonoscopy Benefits and Risks


Benefits of Colonoscopy

  • Early Detection: One of the primary benefits of a colonoscopy is the early detection of colorectal cancer. By identifying and removing polyps before they become cancerous, the procedure can significantly reduce the risk of developing this potentially deadly disease.
  • Diagnostic Tool: Colonoscopy is not only used for cancer screening but also for the diagnosis of various gastrointestinal conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease and unexplained digestive symptoms.
  • Treatment of Gastrointestinal Conditions: In some cases, a colonoscopy can be used for therapeutic purposes, such as the removal of polyps or the treatment of bleeding from diverticula or abnormal blood vessels. 

Risks and Complications

While colonoscopy is generally a safe and well-tolerated procedure, it may carry some risks and potential complications, including:

  • Bleeding: In rare cases, bleeding may occur at the site of a polyp removal or biopsy. This can usually be managed during the procedure.
  • Perforation: A small tear in the colon lining can occur, though this is also rare. Perforations may require surgical repair.
  • Reaction to Sedation: Some individuals may experience an adverse reaction to the sedative medications used during the procedure.
  • Incomplete Examination: In some cases, the colonoscope may not reach the cecum, resulting in an incomplete examination.

Alternatives to Colonoscopy


While colonoscopy is considered the gold standard for colorectal cancer screening, there are alternative screening methods, such as:

  • Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) and Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT):
    These tests look for traces of blood in stool, which can be an indicator of colorectal cancer.
  • CT Colonography (Virtual Colonoscopy):
    A non-invasive imaging test that examines the colon for polyps and other abnormalities.
  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy:
    A shorter procedure that examines the lower part of the colon.

It’s important to discuss with your healthcare provider which screening method is most appropriate for your individual circumstances.

colon health - Exploring Colonoscopy: A Vital Tool for Colon Health

Conclusion: Your Health, Your Colon


A colonoscopy is a vital tool for protecting your colon health.

By detecting and removing precancerous polyps, it can prevent colorectal cancer, which is highly treatable in its early stages but can be deadly if not caught in time.

If you are due for a colonoscopy or have risk factors that warrant screening, don’t hesitate to discuss this essential procedure with your healthcare provider.

Your health and well-being are in your hands, and a colonoscopy can play a pivotal role in preserving your colon health and overall longevity.


Contact Dr. Schneider


In conclusion, gastrointestinal disorders encompass a wide range of conditions that affect the digestive system, from the mouth to the rectum.

These disorders can cause discomfort, pain, and disruption to daily life.

However, with early diagnosis, proper management, and often simple lifestyle changes, many individuals can effectively manage their gastrointestinal issues and improve their quality of life.

Dr. Schneider is located at the Mill Park Hospital, Parktown, Johannesburg.

Services offered include consultation, and endoscopy procedures, including gastroscopy, colonoscopy and video capsule endoscopy.

For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of gluten intolerance in Johannesburg, contact Dr. Schneider or book your consultation today


The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.