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Does a colonsocopy present any risks?

Colonoscopy and endoscopy are tried and tested tools that are invaluable in screening and diagnosing bowel cancers. But just like everything on your cancer journey, it pays to understand the risks, pros and cons of any procedure.


Imagine you have a balloon that hasn't been blown up, and you try to look inside it with a camera. It would be hard to see anything clearly. During a colonoscopy, the colon is inflated with gas, just like a balloon. This helps your endoscopist see the walls of the colon in detail. People who have certain genetic traits or diseases might have weak spots in their colon's lining. When the colon is expanded with gas, these weak spots can be put under pressure. Although it's rare, this pressure can sometimes cause the bowel to tear.

Alternatively, in some cases the endoscope- the long hose like tube used to perform the colonoscopy- can perforate the bowel.

Both of these are exceedingly rare in Australia, according to the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners the rate of perforation in colonscopy in Australia is less than 0.1%


As a normal part of your colonoscopy, your endoscopist or surgeon may take a biopsy or sample of the bowel wall to be tested to see if it is made up of cancerous cells. This is part of what makes the colonoscopy such a great tool for screening and diagnosing bowel cancers. In rare cases, the biopsy site may continue to bleed, and the surgeon may need to take some small action to stop bleeding from continuing.

Just like perforations, this is a very rare occurance, and according to the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners the rate of bleeding that requires intervention during colonscopy in Australia less than 0.2%

The pros and the cons

Check out our related article below on why endoscopy is the gold standard when it comes to diagnosing bowel cancers.

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