Tests for Bowel Problems – A Guide to Help You
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Before you have any tests, the doctors and nurses will ask you lots of questions about your bowel habits (i.e. how you go to the toilet and when you go etc.). Please do not be embarrassed about
these questions: they are like pieces of a jigsaw to the people who ask them and remember: Going to the toilet is normal and something that we all do!
Your doctor or nurse may offer you some blood tests as well as one or more of the following:
• Abdominal examination – looking at, listening to and feeling your tummy.
• Rectal examination – which will involve looking and feeling around and inside your bottom (anal area)
• Proctoscopy – an examination with a very short telescope into the back passage (anus)
• Sigmoidoscopy – an examination using either a longer flexible telescope or a shorter, more rigid telescope. Doctors and nurses can take biopsies (a painless removal of pieces of tissue for diagnosis) using these instruments as well as being able to see a problem if there is one. Before this test you may be required to have some suppositories or a small enema to empty the lower part of your bowel.
• Colonoscopy – an examination with a flexible telescope to inspect inside the entire length of the large bowel. Before this test you will be given some medicine to empty your bowel which you will take before the test. Your own hospital will provide clear instructions.
• Barium Enema – an x-ray examination looking into the entire large bowel using ‘Barium’, a white chalky liquid, which is inserted into your rectum via a small tube, to coat the bowel lining. Some aid will also be inserted. A series of x-rays will then be taken. As with colonoscopy, this test also requires you to take a bowel emptying medicine beforehand. If you have an Ileostomy or if your large bowel has been removed, you must not take this medication. If you are told that you may have got a cancerous growth in your bowel, at some stage you may also have:
CT Scan: a painless examination using x-rays that gives a complete picture of the body. You will need to drink some iodine liquid before the scan.
Liver ultrasound: a painless examination of the liver using sound waves.
MRI Scan: a painless examination using magnetic waves that takes detailed pictures of parts of the body.
Endoanal Ultrasound: a probe inserted into the back passage to take pictures of your bowel wall.
Examination under anaesthetic: a full examination of your bottom, back passage and tummy whilst you are asleep.
This leaflet is based on one designed by the Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain and Ireland, but has been modified (with permission) by us to reflect local policies. The Association of
Coloproctology web site (www.acpgbi.org.uk) has further information on all aspects of colon and rectal disease.
People are unique and the alternatives, risks and benefits will of course vary from person to person. We hope this leaflet will support the information you have already received from your doctor in enabling you to make an informed decision.