What happens during a colonoscopy? What you need to know and were too shy to ask

Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer (or colon cancer) is the third most common cancer among men.

It's also the second leading cause of death in men, explains urologist Dr Shingai Mutambirwa.

While most colon cancers develop after 50, statistics show that about 30% of black South African men between the ages of 30 and 40 develop colon cancer.

Read: 40 or older? Dr Shingai says you should check for prostate cancer once a year

Dr Shingai advises that people with a family history of colon cancer should undergo a colonoscopy.

During a colonoscopy, the doctor inserts a long tubular instrument, known as a colonoscope, through the rectum in order to look inside your large intestine.

A colonoscopy, a stool test and a virtual colonoscopy are the three options for colon cancer screening.

Dr Shingai explains that colon cancer is difficult to detect early on because the symptoms are non-specific.

Here are some of the signs you need colonoscopy:

  • changes in your bowel habits
  • blood in the stool
  • changes in your appetite
  • unexplained weight loss
  • diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
  • discomfort in the abdomen, including frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, and cramps

Also read: Dr Shingai explains link between diabetes and erectile dysfunction

Dr Shingai says it's an "in and out" procedure that takes about 20 minutes and that's usually done under sedation.

He explains that bowel preparation meds must be taken ahead of the procedure and patients are told to stop eating solid foods 24 hours before hand.

The colon does not have the actual nerves that cause you too to feel pain.

Dr Shingai Mutambirwa, urologist and sexual health expert

Once the scope has gone through the anal edge, there's really no sensation. The scope is a little thicker than a pen.

Dr Shingai Mutambirwa, urologist and sexual health expert

The colonoscopy is not a major procedure to be honest... You do have to clean out your bowel.

Dr Shingai Mutambirwa, urologist and sexual health expert

I had a colonoscopy about five weeks ago, so I have first-hand experience. It's not that difficult and I encourage people to get it done.

Dr Shingai Mutambirwa, urologist and sexual health expert

Take a listen to his expert advice:


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