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Dr QM Leong

5 Reasons For An Urgent Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy often becomes part of a routine medical check-up for individuals aged 50 or above or younger people if they have a significant family history of colon cancer.

Yet, not all colonoscopies are routine, and at times, the need for this diagnostic procedure may become pressing and urgent. This could be precipitated by significant changes in the body, mysterious discomfort, or unexplained symptoms, all of which warrant immediate attention and medical action.

This article aims to shed light on the circumstances and reasons for an urgent colonoscopy. Understanding the difference between routine and urgent is crucial to ensure prompt intervention and a better prognosis.

What Is A Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy screening is a medical procedure where doctors inspect the large bowel (large intestine) and rectum for abnormalities. The colonoscopy procedure involves a long, flexible tube (colonoscope) inserted into the rectum to view the entire colon. A camera on the colonoscope transmits images to a monitor for the doctor to inspect.

When Is A Colonoscopy Urgent?

A colonoscopy often becomes part of a routine medical check-up for individuals aged 50 or above or younger people if they have a significant family history of colon cancer.

However, certain situations or symptoms can elevate the need for a colonoscopy from standard to urgent. This could be brought on by significant changes in the body, mysterious discomfort, or unexplained symptoms.

Known Reasons For An Urgent Colonoscopy

Navigating through the complexities of our health can often be daunting, especially when we encounter unfamiliar symptoms. This section aims to shed light on some known reasons that make an urgent colonoscopy necessary.

#1. Unusual Symptoms

Unusual symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, abdominal cramps, or abdominal bloating could indicate colon problems.

Other worrying signs include rectal bleeding or bright red blood in your stool, changes in bowel habits, and unexplained weight loss. These symptoms should not be overlooked or dismissed as minor concerns, especially if they persist or increase in intensity.

Immediate consultation with a colorectal surgeon is vital, as it will help determine the need for an urgent colonoscopy.

#2. Colon Cancer Symptoms

Colon cancer symptoms can be incredibly varied and may include changes in bowel movements, bloody stools, or weight loss. Recognising these symptoms as potential signs of colon cancer is crucial in initiating early treatment.

If you notice blood in your stool or any other colon cancer symptoms, it’s essential to consult with medical professionals right away.. Your doctor can decide if these symptoms warrant further testing, like an urgent colonoscopy, to get a clear diagnosis and develop an effective treatment plan.

#3. Identification Of Polyps

Colonoscopies can identify and remove polyps, which might become cancerous if left untreated. Polyps in the colon can evolve into cancer over time. An urgent colonoscopy allows for their swift identification and removal, reducing the risk of cancer development.

#4. Unexplained Anaemia And Weight Loss

A severe drop in haemoglobin levels requiring a blood transfusion might be a symptom of undetected colon problems. Anaemia can be a sign of internal bleeding, potentially from a polyp or cancer in the colon.

Similarly, sudden, unexplained weight loss, particularly when accompanied by other symptoms such as fatigue or changes in bowel movements, could be a warning sign of colon or rectal cancer. These signs necessitate an urgent colonoscopy for a definitive diagnosis and prompt treatment.

#5. Positive Fecal Immunochemical Test

A positive result from a faecal immunochemical test (FIT) indicates the presence of hidden or occult blood in the stool, an alarming sign that could suggest polyps or cancer. This test is an important non-invasive tool in the early detection of colorectal cancer.

However, a positive result should be followed up with an urgent colonoscopy to confirm the diagnosis and determine the cause of the bleeding. Timely intervention can lead to more effective treatment options and better patient outcomes.

Preparing For An Urgent Colonoscopy

Preparation is a critical aspect of a colonoscopy, often called ‘bowel prep’. This procedure is crucial to ensure the colon is clean and devoid of residual waste that might obscure the doctor’s view. The process involves a regulated diet that usually restricts certain foods and emphasises liquid intake. Additionally, bowel-clearing laxatives stimulate bowel movements and empty the colon.

It’s crucial to follow the doctor’s guidelines carefully and respond promptly to the bowel movement urges induced by these laxatives. Ensuring a thoroughly cleansed colon significantly enhances the doctor’s ability to detect polyps or abnormalities. Thus, meticulous adherence to the bowel prep protocol is a vital element in the overall success of the colonoscopy procedure.

Conclusion On The Reasons For An Urgent Colonoscopy

In healthcare, understanding your body’s signals is crucial, and acknowledging the reasons for an urgent colonoscopy is a part of this awareness.

Recognising early symptoms like altered bowel habits, abdominal pain, or blood in your stool can help identify serious issues, such as colon cancer, at an initial stage, improving the chances of successful treatment.

However, it’s essential not to self-diagnose based on symptoms alone; always consult a healthcare professional if you’re experiencing worrying signs. They can provide accurate evaluations and guide you on the appropriate treatment pathway.

Also, remember that preventative care, like regular check-ups and screenings, is key to early detection and effective treatment. Understanding the need for an urgent colonoscopy is an empowering step towards proactive health management.

Consult with Dr Leong today. He is a colorectal surgeon in Singapore specialising in the diagnosis of colon/colorectal cancer, and addressing a range of issues such as:

Frequently Asked Questions On The Reasons For An Urgent Colonoscopy

What Does A Colonoscopy Feel Like?

Most individuals are sedated during a colonoscopy, so they typically feel little to no discomfort during the procedure. You may feel dizzy or slightly disoriented as the sedation wears off. After the procedure, you might experience mild cramping or bloating, which usually subsides relatively quickly.

Can I Continue Taking My Regular Medications Before A Colonoscopy?

It depends on the type of medication. Some drugs, like blood thinners, can increase the risk of bleeding during the procedure. Therefore, you may need to stop taking them temporarily. Discussing your medications with your doctor during the pre-colonoscopy consultation is crucial.

Can A Colonoscopy Miss Cancer?

While a colonoscopy is a highly effective tool for detecting colon cancer, it’s not infallible. Very small polyps, or those hidden in the colon’s folds, can sometimes be missed. Therefore, regular screening and follow-up procedures are essential.

How Often Should I Have A Colonoscopy?

The frequency of colonoscopies depends on several factors, such as age, medical history, and family history of colon cancer. A screening colonoscopy every ten years starting at age 50 is recommended for most people. However, you may need more frequent screenings if you have higher risk factors.

Is There An Alternative To A Colonoscopy?

Yes, there are alternatives such as stool tests, CT colonography, and sigmoidoscopy. However, none of these tests are as comprehensive as a colonoscopy, which examines the entire colon and can remove polyps during the procedure. A colonoscopy may still be needed for further evaluation and treatment if an abnormality is detected in these alternative tests.