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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Colonoscopy Q&As

I had colon cancer diagnosed two and a half years ago and had an operation. I am always worried that the cancer will come back. I am due to have a colonoscopy soon, should it have been left this long and how often should I have this test?

A colonoscopy is done to check for the presence of cancer in the bowel and also to look for changes in the bowel which could lead to cancer in the future.

A colonoscopy is often done as part of the tests before surgery for a bowel cancer. Those patients who do not have a colonoscopy before their operation are often offered the test a few months later to check there is no abnormality in any other part of the bowel.

The value of colonoscopy as a routine, regular check up after bowel cancer is still uncertain and trials are being done to get a clearer picture of its usefulness. Current national guidelines from the Department of Health recommend that colonoscopy should not be repeated more often than once every three years.

If you were found to have benign polyps (small growths) in the bowel, as well as a cancer, when you were first treated then your doctors are more likely to recommend occasional colonoscopies.

The risk of bowel cancer coming back reduces very rapidly after two years from the time of surgery and after five years a recurrence is very unlikely. So you have already successfully passed an important landmark and can take some reassurance from this.

Although colonoscopy may be of some help in detecting any recurrence of the cancer, the most important thing is to tell your doctors know if you develop any suspicious symptoms. These include bleeding from the back passage, abnormal diarrhoea or constipation, weight loss or pain in the abdomen. If you notice any of these, don't wait for your next routine appointment but let your doctors know immediately so they can arrange a check-up for you.

Via: http://www.cancerbackup.org.uk

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