Endoscopy for Cancer Detection
An endoscopy is a procedure in which a doctor uses an instrument consisting of a flexible tube connected to a light and a camera (endoscope) to view abnormalities in the internal hollow organs of the body, such as the upper and lower digestive system, the respiratory tract, the cervix and the uterus. The camera takes pictures of the walls of the cavities of these organs which are then viewed on a colour TV monitor. Additionally, the equipped with a tool which allows a surgeon to use the procedure to operate on the internal organs and vessels of the body without making large surgical cuts or incisions.
Endoscopy is useful, in that it allows removal of a piece of tissue (obtaining biopsy) at a suspicious cancer site during the procedure for further examination. Further, it is possible to remove small growths such as polyps during the procedure. The picture below shows an assembly of upper endoscopy setup:
Why is it important to have an Endoscopy?
Your doctor will review any symptoms you will present, perform a physical examination, and possibly order some blood tests to check the results first before proceeding to perform endoscopy.
Your doctor may order an endoscopy to examine a problem with an organ by eye by checking infection, damage to the organ or development of cancer.
Endoscopy test will help your doctor to gain more insight on the problem that is causing the symptoms you might be showing. Once your doctor is able to determine the problem, he/she will plan a strategy for the best treatment plan.
(Image Credits – shutterstock.com)
A surgeon inserts an endoscope through a small cut he/she will make, or through an opening in the body such as the mouth or anus.
The light will make the hollow organ visible and the camera will take pictures to be displayed on the TV monitor to make observations easier
In the process of examination, your doctor may also use forceps attached to the end of the endoscope and scissors to remove a small sample of tissue called biopsy for lab tests as confirmation of his/her findings.
If your doctor made an incision (cut) for the procedure, he/she will close the wound with stitches and have it bandaged as soon as the procedure is done. Your doctor will guide you how to take care of the wound.
How do I prepare for Endoscopy?
Day before endoscopy
In general, most digestive system endoscopy types are performed on an empty bowel for clarity of images.
Remind your doctor about your health conditions, medications you are taking and if you have any allergies, as some endoscopy procedures will require you to drink a contrast solution that might affect your condition or cause to have allergies. If your endoscopy procedure will require you to be on an empty stomach, you will need to prepare for the following:
- An overnight fast and no meal before the procedure.
- Your doctor may provide you with laxatives or enemas to use the night before the procedure to clear the bowel.
Day of endoscopy
- Arrive at the facility about 30 minutes early to do paperwork.
- You will be asked to change into a hospital gown for the procedure.
- The doctor will brief you about the procedure before he/she performs the procedure. This will include possible complications that might arise from the endoscopy.
- You will be given either local anesthesia (spray medication in the testing area to make it numb) or general anesthesia (given medication to put you to sleep) for the procedure to avoid any discomfort.
Some endoscopy procedures require you to be outpatient (you go home the same day after the procedure) others will require you to be in hospital overnight. Your healthcare professionals will let you know.
You cannot drive home after the procedure either because of the use of anesthesia or painkillers given to you to ease any discomfort you might have, so arrange for a ride.
Some endoscopy procedures (cervical or colon examination) might cause slight aftermath discomfort and you may need a bit of time to feel well enough to carry on with regular daily activities.
Are there risks in Endoscopy?
Endoscopy procedures are usually quite safe; there are rarely any complications. However, one needs to be cautious about the following:
- Some individuals may be allergic to the medication or contrast taken prior to some endoscopy procedures.
- Complications may arise from the anesthesia provided due to pre-existing heart, lung, or liver disease.
- If a cut was made for insertion of the endoscope, redness and swelling at the site might occur temporarily.
- Bleeding may occur at the area where the biopsy was taken or at the site where a polyp had been removed. This is however, very rare.
What types of Endoscopies are available?
There are many different types of endoscopes, all designed in slightly different ways to fit specific procedures but their basic function is essentially the same looking inside a hollow organ in the body for any abnormalities, infections or cancer. The commonly used endoscopes are listed below:
Instrument and Target Area Under View
An arthroscope is passed through a small incision to view the joints
|A bronchoscope is inserted through the nose or mouth to view the windpipe
(trachea) of the lungs. Important in lung cancer diagnosis.
|A colonoscope is inserted through the anus to view colon and
rectum of the large intestine using lighted flexible tube.
This is important in the diagnosis of colon cancer.
Barium enema, along with colonoscopy, has become a
standard approach in the diagnosis of colon cancer.
|The vagina is opened with a speculum, and then a colposcope is
used to view cervix, and uterus for cancers and polyps.
|Hysteroscopy||A hysteroscope is inserted through vagina to view the uterus.|
|Cystoscopy||A cystoscope is inserted through the urethra into the bladder.|
|Esophagoscopy||An esophagoscope is inserted through the mouth to view esophagus.|
|A gastroscope is inserted through the mouth to the stomach and
the beginning of the small intestine .
EGD (Upper Endoscopy)
|An upper endoscope is inserted through the mouth to view the
esophagus, stomach, and the duodenum.
|A laparoscope is inserted through a small abdominal surgical
opening to view stomach, liver and the female reproductive system.
It is used extensively in stomach and female reproductive cancer.
|Laryngoscopy||A laryngoscope is inserted through the mouth to view the voice box .|
|A neuro endoscope is inserted through a small incision made in the skull
to view areas in the brain. It is used as part of the diagnosis for brain cancer.
|A proctoscope is inserted through anus to view rectum and
|Sigmoidoscopy||A sigmoidoscope is inserted through anus to view descending colon.|
|A thoracoscope is inserted through small chest incision to view the lungs.
It is an important instrument in detection of lung cancer.