President George B Bush will undergo a routine colonoscopy this weekend, according to Tony Snow, the US presidential spokesman. While undergoing and recovering from the procedure he will cede power to his vice-president, Dick Cheney.

Tony Snow said this is a ‘routine colonoscopy’ that had been scheduled a long time ago – the president has no symptoms of cancer, he added. George Bush’s last colonoscopy took place in June 2002.

Two factors could raise President Bush’s risk of developing bowel cancer. Firstly, he is over the age of 50. Secondly, earlier on in his life he was a heavy drinker.

What is a Colonoscopy?

The word colonoscopy means looking inside the colon. It is carried out by a gastroenterologist, a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating people with diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, the stomach, and the intestines.

The colon is also known as the large intestine or the bowels, it is a five-foot-long tube which starts at the cecum, which attaches to the end of the small intestine, and ends at the rectum (anus). The main function of the colon is to store food that has not been absorbed by the body before elimination.

A colonoscope – a long, thin, flexible tube with a miniscule video camera on the end – is guided in by the gastroenterologist, who can move it in any direction and examine the colon by looking at a picture on a TV monitor. Colonoscopy is better at detecting whether there is something wrong than an X-ray. A colonoscope, in fact, is long enough to see parts of the small intestine.

A colonoscopy can evaluate or detect:

— Blood loss – it can treat active bleeding from the bowel pain
— Changes in bowel habits
Colon cancer (bowel cancer)
— Abnormal growths on the inside lining of the intestine

Colonoscopy is also used to remove a polyp (polypectomy), which is then taken to a lab to find out whether it is malignant or potentially malignant.

Before undergoing a colonoscopy the patient needs to tell the doctor what medicines he/she is taking, explain about any allergies to drugs and other substances. The medical team will need to know about any existing or past medical conditions the patient may have had.

The patient’s colon must be thoroughly clean before a colonoscopy can be carried out. Often a liquid preparation is given which stimulates bowel movements. Sometimes an enema is used. Nothing should be consumed within 8-10 hours before the procedure.

After the procedure the patient may experience minor problems, such as mild cramping, bloating or gas – they will not last more than a day.

Click here for more information on colonoscopy from the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC).

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today