A colonoscopy is an investigative technique used to examine the entire length of the large bowel. It involves the insertion of a long, flexible tube with a camera, which includes lighting, irrigiation and insufflation systems, into the anus through to the rectum and colon.

A colonoscopy is useful in diagnosing ulcers, polyps and cancers. Using different accessory instruments, it can be used to both diagnose and treat a range of conditions through procedures such as biopsy (taking a tissue sample for further examination), polypectomy (removal of polyps), endoscopic dissection (removal of larger lesions), haemostasis and stenting (to relieve obstruction).


When should a colonoscopy be considered?

Indications that a colonoscopy may be required include:

Diagnostic colonoscopy – if you have abnormal symptoms

  • Receive a positive result from a faecal occult blood test
  • Experience any of the below:
    • Blood or mucus discharge from the rectum or in stool
    • Recent change in bowel habits
    • Feeling like you still need to go to the bathroom after a bowel movement
    • Anaemia
    • A palpable mass in the abdomen
    • Chronic diarrhoea or constipation

Screening/surveillance colonoscopy – if you have a high risk of developing colorectal cancer

  • Are over 50 years of age
  • Have a family history of colorectal cancer
  • Have a personal history of:
    • Colorectal cancer
    • Inflammatory bowel disease

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