Bowel cancer - having a colonoscopy 

Bowel cancer is now the 4th most common form of cancer. TV presenter Lynn Faulds Wood survived advanced bowel cancer. In this video she undergoes a colonoscopy as part of a five-year check-up.

How to reduce the risk of bowel cancer

Transcript of Bowel cancer - having a colonoscopy

I'm Lynn Faulds Wood and I want to thank you for watching this.

Now, you're probably watching because your doctor has recommended

that you have an internal investigation called a colonoscopy.

First, let me reassure you.

Many thousands of people a year have colonoscopies

and most of them don't have cancer.

I'm about to have my colonoscopy

and you'll be able to see exactly what's involved.


I'd like to talk to you about the thousands of people

who have lost money to your husband's companies.

You might remember me from the BBC's Watchdog programme.

It was while I was presenting that programme

I was diagnosed out of the blue with advanced bowel cancer.

Don't kick me.

- (woman) You're trespassing. - You're squashing me.

It was just a few weeks after this photograph was taken

that I got the shock diagnosis.

My son was just three years old.

It was a devastating time for us.

Luckily, I survived.

And I've been campaigning to raise awareness of bowel cancer ever since.

Every five years,

I have colonoscopies to make sure the cancer hasn't come back.

I'm having my colonoscopy here at St George's in south London,

a centre of excellence for the NHS bowel cancer screening programme,

and my local big hospital.

Units like this handle thousands of patients every year.

Some are here because they have symptoms,

some because of family history

and some for the bowel cancer screening programme.

But many people are not really sure what their bowels are and what they do.

We use the word "bowel" when we want to talk about

this important part of our body's food processing system.

There's the small bowl or intestine, and then the large bowel or colon

which is where the word "colonoscopy" comes from.

And down at your bottom, there's the rectum.

Most cancers are in the lower colon or rectum.

Bowel cancer is the second commonest cancer.

Colonoscopy is a really effective way of finding it,

by looking inside our bodies for small, wart-like growths,

they're called polyps, which can turn to cancer.

And colonoscopy works best if we help it.

It's really important that you clean out your insides

so they get a clear view of the walls of your gut.

And to do that, all the hospitals will send you a really helpful fact sheet

with things like what you can eat the day before,

breakfast of white toast, tea, coffee, no milk,

that sort of thing.

What clear liquids you can drink.

They'll also send you laxatives.

And you take some the night before and some on the day.

And it's really important that you take it all.

I'm about to have mine.

Doesn't exactly taste pleasant but we've got to do it.

On the day of your colonoscopy, you won't be able to eat anything.

I was already really hungry but I got here early

so I could have a quick chat with the specialist, Roger Leicester.

So, what is a colonoscope and what does it do?

A colonoscope is, as the name suggests,

the instrument for looking into the bowel or the colon.

It's about the same... Slightly smaller diameter than my finger.

Very long, because the colon is about a metre long.

And we have one and a half metres

which gives us the length to go around the whole colon.

- And bendy. - It's bendy to go round the bends.

And we can manipulate the tip of the instrument with these two wheels.

And ultimately, we aim to go round the colon with that kind of length.

- (Lynn) People think this is painful. - It shouldn't be painful.

As long as the colonoscopist is well trained.

Effectively, you are moving somebody's colon, it feels uncomfortable.

It should not be painful.

Slightly uncomfortable because your bowel is basically rotated

by using this instrument.

- But it shouldn't be painful. - (Lynn) Let's hope so.

- (nurse) Lynn Faulds Wood, please. - That's me.

Hello. My name's Bethan, I'm one of the nurses, I'm going to be with you today.

If you want to follow me, we're going to room number one.

(Lynn) I'm here for a check-up because I've already had bowel cancer.

You might be having your colonoscopy because of the NHS screening programme

or because you've been referred by your GP.

(Bethan) Mr Leicester will come and have a chat with you.

- Come on in here. - Thank you very much.

- Take a seat for me. - Thank you.

Probably going to give you a bit of sedation today.

- (Lynn) I'd like some. - I was going to say, most people do.

In order to give you that,

we'll need to pop in a needle into your hand or arm

and we'll do this in the procedure room.

- Are you alright with needles? - Very happy.

(Lynn) The nurse will ask you if you have any medical problems

which might affect the procedure and if you're on any medication.

She'll also want to know what you've eaten or drunk

within the last 24 hours.

(nurse) Last time you had something to drink?

- (Lynn) About three hours ago. - OK.

That would have been about lunchtime, 12-ish.

- Was it water? - Water, just water.

(Bethan) I'm going to ask you to get changed into one of our hospital gowns.

- I'm sure you've seen these before. - Quite often.

We've got a bag in there for your belongings.

And some shorts to keep your modesty protected.

So, when you're ready, I'll come back and check your blood pressure.

- Thanks very much. - Thanks very much.

I don't think you're going to be watching this.

(Lynn) Before the specialist Roger Leicester does the colonoscopy,

there are a few formalities.

- Hello, Lynn. How are we doing? - Waiting in eager anticipation.

We went through this already, what we're gonna do.

So, colonoscopy, if we find any polyps, we'll take them out.

(Lynn) The hospital needs your consent

for any kind of procedure, including colonoscopy.

And your doctor will want to talk to you

and deal with any worries you might have.

Fitness-wise, no problems?

I've had this before, but lots of people are frightened and nervous

about having it done.

What would you say to them?

I think most people are frightened about the result.

They're frightened about the procedure,

but particularly frightened because they think they have cancer.

Why do they think they have cancer? Even young people.

Because they know somebody who's had cancer. How was it found?

Endoscopy. So they automatically assume, my doctor suspects cancer.

In reality, less than ten per cent of people do end up having cancer.

Many of them will have polyps or colitis which is treatable,

we can take polyps out and actually prevent cancer.

(Roger) So the total number having it is small.

- (Bethan) We'll pop into here. - Thank you.

(Bethan) So, take a seat on here for me.

(Lynn, voiceover) Here I am, this is it.

Now we'll see if I've got any problems

since my last colonoscopy five years ago.

It's natural to be worried,

but I know I'm in the right place if there is a problem.

- (Bethan) Is that comfortable? - Yes, fine.

(Lynn) Before the colonoscopy, you'll be given an oxygen supply,

and something called a cannula will be inserted into you arm

so you can be given sedation.

Feel like you've had a couple of glasses of wine. Nicely relaxed.

(Lynn) It won't normally put you to sleep but you might feel a bit woozy.

- Can I have the wine instead? - (Roger) Yes.

It's basically a combination of pain relief and what we call anxiolytic,

which reduces your anxiety.

- (Roger) Your oxygen level's fine. - Good.

You can watch yourself on the screen.

(Bethan) As we go around, if you see things and think, "What's that?",

feel free to ask.

(Roger) A little bit of air going in there.

You will feel it moving around a bit inside you.

You've done a great job in preparation, nice and clear.

(Lynn, slurred) That's because I stopped putting food there yesterday morning.

(Lynn, voiceover) By now, you'll hear I am feeling woozy.

(Roger) You've done really well. Absolutely perfect.

(Lynn) Not troubling at all, I can't feel anything unpleasant.


(Lynn) Trouble is, every problem are very deep in the body

and this is the best way to go fishing for them.

(Roger) Just looking for the way through here.

There it is.

(Lynn) Most polyps you find don't turn out to be cancerous.

(Roger) Vast majority are not.

The most common kind of polyp has no relation to cancer at all.

The ones that do... are related to cancer, by removing those,

it prevents cancer.

Take a little bit more now.

(Lynn) That's the black coffee I had earlier.

(Lynn) Marks out of ten so far for using the prep properly?

- (Roger) Oh, 12. - Good.

I can feel you up here somewhere. Are you up here already?

I've just turned your colon around by turning this round.

(Lynn) It's almost like a tickling sensation.

(Roger) I think we're coming up probably to the last turn.

That was really quick. You got right round the question mark shape

- towards the end. - (Roger) We're coming to the end now.

What I'm gonna do now is to come back very slowly

and I want to look at every single centimetre of this bowel.

(Lynn) How long should a colonoscopy take on the way in and the way out?

(Roger) If there is...

The important thing on the way out is, I think there's no specific time,

but that you look at every single bit.

On average, it takes between five and six minutes coming out.

Maybe there's a little polyp there perhaps.

- (Lynn) Really? - I think there probably is.

If we have a look. But this is tiny. This is magnified 25 or 30 times.

So very small.

(Lynn) Actually, you're looking at a real little tiny bit of my bowel.

Two millimetres at the most.

(Roger) And that looks as though it's a small polyp.

(Lynn) So that, at the bottom screen now, a little flat bump.

- (Roger) Yep. - (Lynn) Which could turn into a polyp?

(Roger) Yeah, I think this is a polyp.

(Lynn) If they do find a small growth, as they have done with me,

they may want to take it out so it can be investigated.

They do this by inserting a wire down the colonoscopy tube

and removing the polyp.

(Roger) It's completely taken the whole lot.

You won't feel this.

I'm gonna turn this away, you won't feel that.

So that's the polyp gone completely.

The whole idea is that the cancer is completely preventable.

If you take polyps out, you prevent cancer.

It takes, as I said, about ten years to go from nothing to cancer.

It's a very preventable disease.

Let's take that air out for you now.

So that's excellent.

I think bearing in mind the fact it takes ten years

- to go from nothing to cancer... - That feels great.'re not going to have any problems at all.

Thank you very much. That was... so easy.

Not for you, but for me.

It was very comfortable, not a problem.

And having no problems,

having found that there's no cancer lurking in there, that's great.

Thank you very much.

People like you think, "Is it gonna be alright?"

You've always got that fear. But it's fine.

- Lovely. Thank you very much. - Let's hope you live to 100.

- I'd like to. - Absolutely.

We'll do your colonoscopy on your 99th birthday.

Thank you very much.

(nurse) We'll take you to recovery.

- Thank you so much. - You're very welcome.

- (Bethan) OK? - Yep.

(Lynn) Once the doctor has finished, you will be taken to a recovery ward

where you can get over the effects of the sedation

and where the nurses can keep an eye on you

to see that everything is OK.

What we're going to do is we're gonna pop your oxygen back on.

- I'm gonna put this on your arm. - Alright.

We'll keep you here for about 45 minutes.

Just to track your progress on the recovery.

(Lynn) You'll be glad of the rest.

The only problem is, it means waiting a bit longer

before you can have anything to eat or drink.

Oh, and since we filmed my colonoscopy,

I've got the report on the polyp they found.

And just as Roger Leicester said, it was nothing to worry about.

Well, my colonoscopy was good news and I'm now having a lovely cup of tea.

I'm feeling a bit woozy, I'm glad I've got somebody to drive me home.

But if you're told that you need a colonoscopy,

I hope you are now feeling reassured.

You don't need to be nervous or frightened.

Most of them turn out not to be cancer.

And I wish you a long and very healthy life.






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