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Colonoscopy is a very common procedure with most Australians having at least one in their lifetime. It is used to investigate symptoms such as diarrhoea, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain or weight loss. It can also be used to look for polyps (mushroom-like growths of tissue) or cancers in asymptomatic patients, especially those with a family history of bowel cancer.

How is a colonoscopy done?

Your colonoscopy will be done under deep sedation with an anaesthetist. The test is performed while you lie on your left side, although occasionally it may be necessary for you to lie on your back during the procedure. The instrument is inserted through the back passage. Most colonoscopies take between 20 and 45 minutes. However, there is also time both sides of the colonoscopy to prepare and be discharged.

Safety and risks

Serious complications of colonoscopy are rare, at less than one in a thousand examinations. However complications, whilst rare, can occur. Your doctor will talk with you about risks and tailor the advice to your circumstance. 

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