What is an endoscopy?
An endoscopy can be used to help treat a digestive tract problem or diagnose polyps, which can be removed to prevent the development of colon cancer. Endoscopy procedures are carried out across the UK, and across the world, thousands of times a day. They are established, safe diagnostic tests.
Why might I need an endoscopy?
The most common reason for having an endoscopy is if you develop a symptom called heartburn. This is where you get a burning, or acidic, sensation rising behind your breastbone. Sometimes that acidic taste can go to the back of your mouth, which is known as water brash, and you can also get food or liquid coming up at the same time. This is known as regurgitation.
Other reasons for having an endoscopy include:
- If you’re having difficulty swallowing (also known as dysphagia)
- Tummy pain that does not go away or keeps coming back
- Diarrhoea and feeling - or being – sick regularly
- Unintentional weight loss
- Regularly experiencing heartburn or indigestion
- More frequent or looser stools or blood in your poo
If you have those symptoms, then an endoscopy will help diagnose whether you have a condition called Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease or GORD. This is usually associated with a hiatus hernia, where the valve at the top of the stomach - where it meets the gullet – stops working as it should. That becomes more common with increasing age, particularly if you’re overweight.
As part of the NHS’ National Bowel Cancer Screening program when you reach the age of 55, you’ll be invited to have a bowel scope, also known as a flexible sigmoidoscopy, to examine the rectum and the inside of the large intestine.
This is taken as a preventative measure as evidence has shown that if a polyp or small, benign growth is found and removed then there’s a reduced likelihood of developing cancer in the following five to ten years.