A colonoscopy is one of the most important procedures that you can get done. It is considered one of the preferred methods of colorectal cancer screening, and can detect cancer at an early stage when it is most treatable. If colorectal cancer is found, a colonoscopy can also be used to determine the extent of the cancer and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.
In addition to colorectal cancer, colonoscopies can also be used to diagnose other conditions of the colon, even when you may not notice any symptoms at all.
Here are 10 common conditions that can be diagnosed through a colonoscopy.
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that affects the lining of the colon and rectum. The most common symptom of ulcerative colitis is bloody diarrhoea. Other symptoms may include abdominal pain and cramping, weight loss, and fatigue.
Ulcerative colitis is diagnosed via colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy. Treatment typically involves prescription medications to reduce inflammation, although surgery may be necessary in some cases. With proper treatment, most people with ulcerative colitis can achieve remission of symptoms. However, the disease may flare up occasionally, and some people may experience chronic symptoms.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that can affect any part of the digestive tract from the mouth to the anus. The most common symptoms are abdominal pain, diarrhoea, rectal bleeding, weight loss, and fatigue.
Crohn’s disease usually begins in young adulthood and is more common in women than in men. There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but treatments are available to help relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.
Common treatment includes medication, nutrition therapy, and surgery. A colonoscopy may be used to diagnose Crohn’s disease and rule out other conditions. With proper treatment, people with Crohn’s disease can expect to have a normal life span.
Colon polyps are growths on the lining of the colon that may become cancerous. They are usually discovered during a colonoscopy while examining the lining of the intestinal walls.
Most colon polyps are benign, meaning they are not cancerous. However, some types of colon polyps have the potential to develop into cancer. Fortunately, colon polyps can be removed during a colonoscopy, and regular colon screenings can help to ensure that any potentially cancerous growths are detected early.
Diverticulitis is a condition in which small pouches form in the colon and become inflamed or infected. The pouches, called diverticula, can form when the colon wall weakens. This can happen with age or from stress on the colon, such as from constipation. If the pouches become inflamed, it is called diverticulitis.
Symptoms of diverticulitis include abdominal pain, cramping, fever, and chills. If the infection is severe, it can lead to abscesses or blockages in the colon.
Treatment for diverticulitis may include antibiotics to clear the infection, pain relief, and a liquid diet. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the infected part of the colon.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition that affects the colon and causes abdominal pain, bloating, and constipation or diarrhoea. The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is unknown, but it is thought to be related to a combination of factors, including abnormalities in the digestive system, changes in gut bacteria, and psychological stress.
There is no cure for irritable bowel syndrome, but the symptoms can usually be managed with lifestyle changes and medications.
In some cases, a colonoscopy may be necessary to rule out other conditions. With proper treatment, most people with irritable bowel syndrome are able to lead normal, healthy lives.
Haemorrhoids are swollen veins in the lower rectum. They are also known as piles and can be internal or external. External haemorrhoids are located under the skin around the anus. Internal haemorrhoids are located in the colon and rectum.
When haemorrhoids become engorged with blood, they can swell up and cause discomfort, itchiness or pain. In addition, they can swell up with blood clots (thrombosed piles), causing severe pain. A more dangerous complication of piles is rectal (or anal) bleeding.
If you experience rectal bleeding, you should see a doctor immediately as it could be a sign of a more serious condition such as colon cancer. A colonoscopy is able to detect internal haemorrhoids and determine if further treatment is necessary to relieve your discomfort.
Constipation is a condition in which a person has uncomfortable or infrequent bowel movements. Generally, a person is considered to be constipated when bowel movements consist of small amounts of hard, dry stools, usually fewer than three times a week. Constipation can be caused by various factors, including a lack of fibre in the diet, dehydration, and certain medical conditions.
Treatment for constipation typically involves lifestyle changes, such as increasing fluid intake and eating more fibre-rich foods. In some cases, medication may also be necessary. If constipation persists despite these measures, colonoscopy may be recommended to rule out other potential causes.
Colon and rectal cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is the number one cancer in Singapore. According to the Singapore Cancer Registry’s Annual Report 2018, colorectal cancer remains the most common cancer diagnosed in men and second most common cancer in women.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, it’s important to speak with your doctor about scheduling a colonoscopy:
- Frequent diarrhoea,
- Blood in stool,
- Rectal bleeding,
- Abdominal pain or cramping,
- Unintended weight loss,
- Fatigue, or
- Dark stools
The good news is that colon and rectal cancer is often curable when detected early. A colonoscopy would allow our doctor to examine the colon for signs of cancer. The colonoscopy can also be used to remove polyps before they can develop into cancer.
Microscopic colitis is an inflammation of the colon that is only discernible under microscopic examination. While the colon might not look affected during a colonoscopy, tissue samples taken can show signs of this inflammation. This condition often manifests as persistent watery diarrhoea and discomfort in the abdomen.
Colonic strictures refers to a constriction in a segment of the colon, potentially hindering stool passage. Various factors can lead to this, such as inflammatory bowel disorders, past surgical procedures, or growths. Colonoscopies play a crucial role in pinpointing these strictures, facilitating prompt medical response to mitigate symptoms and avert further issues.
What Can’t A Colonoscopy Detect
While colonoscopies are instrumental in diagnosing a range of colon-related issues, they have their limitations:
- Functional Disorders: Ailments like functional dyspepsia might elude detection during a colonoscopy. These conditions pertain more to the operational aspects of the digestive system rather than its physical structure.
- Stomach Ulcers: Being part of the digestive tract, stomach ulcers reside in the stomach’s inner layer, which a standard colonoscopy can’t access. A gastroscopy would be the preferred method for spotting them.
- Conditions of the Small Intestine: Afflictions such as Celiac disease or specific infections in the small intestine might remain hidden during a colonoscopy. More specialised techniques or examinations might be essential for their identification.
A colonoscopy is a safe and effective way to screen for colon cancer and other conditions of the colon. The procedure is generally well tolerated, with most people only experiencing mild discomfort. If you have any symptoms that could be indicative of a problem with your colon, be sure to speak with your doctor about scheduling a colonoscopy.
Additionally, it is important to speak with your doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed in this article.
If you have any questions or would like to learn more about colonoscopies or colon related conditions, you may contact us directly via WHATSAPP or call our CLINIC for assistance.