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6 Signs You May Need a Scope


6 Signs You May Need a Scope

An endoscope is a flexible tube with a light and camera at the end of the device. It is commonly used to look into our digestive tract.


In a gastroscopy, the endoscope is passed through the mouth to examine the contents of your oesophagus, stomach and upper part of the small intestine. A similar (and longer) tube can be passed through the anus to examine your large intestine (colon). This procedure is called a colonoscopy. These procedures are safely performed in a hospital setting, during which your doctor will be able to examine the digestive tract by looking at a monitor screen. Videos and pictures of the tract will usually be taken for documentation.

Here are 6 signs that you may need a scope:



1. Persistent stomach or abdominal pain, bloatedness or discomfort


Any of the above symptoms, if persisting, is a reason for you to see a doctor and explore the possibility of doing a scope. If you find that your stomach discomfort has been persisting for longer than usual instead of resolving within a short period of time, you should monitor and record if it happens after eating a certain type of food, or before meals.

Sometimes, people can experience a prolonged period of acid reflux - that can also be a reason for you as there may be an underlying infection or condition within your stomach or colon.



2. Difficulty swallowing


Difficulty in swallowing may be due to a blockage in the upper part of your digestive tract, called the oesophagus. If your throat hurts when swallowing, a gastroscopy may be recommended as it is the best way to check where the problem is.



3. Unexplained weight loss


If you find yourself eating normally but somehow losing weight, it may be a sign for you to get it checked out. Unexplained weight loss can be a symptom of a serious illness, and it is one of the tell-tale signs of cancer. It may also signal diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and others. To be sure, it is best to visit a doctor and get yourself examined.



4. Bleeding after going to the toilet or passing gas


You may notice rectal bleeding present on toilet paper, in the water of the toilet bowl or in your stool after going to the washroom. Sometimes it can be due to hard stools, which can tear the lining of your anal canal, or haemorrhoids. But if you notice an unusual amount of bleeding or if the symptom has persisted, it is best to get it checked as it may signal something more sinister. A colonoscopy in this case would be recommended to check your colon and examine if there are any underlying causes that resulted in the per rectal bleeding.


If you notice rectal bleeding after passing gas, it is also a sign and should be taken seriously with a proper check of your digestive tract.



5. Altered bowel habits


This refers to any change from your routine bowel habits from the number of times you pass motion a day, or if your stool consistency becomes overly watery or hard. If you usually pass motion once a day but in the past week you have been passing only once every two days, it would be considered a change and you may consider getting it checked.



6. Change in stool calibre


Stool calibre refer to the size of the stool. The size of your stool can vary – but if it becomes very small and thin, there is a concern that there may be a narrowing at the end of your digestive tract (anus), which is causing this. If you realise that your stool calibre has changed, do not take it lightly and do seek medical attention.



Traditionally, people often seek medical attention only when they feel that something is amiss, which can be too late as symptoms may not appear until the condition is advanced. Although you may not currently exhibit any of the above symptoms, health screening is encouraged. Current screening guidelines recommend colonoscopy at the age of 45 years old and above as there is a higher risk of developing cancer at this age (Cancer Screening, 2010). Screening procedures help the detection of cancer at an early stage, allowing for early treatment (Physician, 1 Sep 2005).


Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world (Worldwide cancer data, n.d.). One of the causes of colon cancer are the untreated polyps in the colon for many years which have mutated and evolved over the years from a single polyp to something more sinister. Colonoscopy is strongly advised for individuals who have a family or past history of polyps as there may be a trend. During the procedure, your doctor can remove the polyps which will halt their growth and eventual change into cancer.


Stomach cancer can also be detected through a gastroscopy – during the scope, the doctor will be looking out for polyps and will be testing for the presence of a bacteria called Helicobacter Pylori. If left untreated for years, there is a possibility that it will lead to stomach cancer as well. If detected early, medication will be given to help eradicate the presence of the bacteria.


We hope that you have learnt more about scopes and the various indicators that you may require one. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below! If you are interested, you may choose to read more about health screening here, or about undergoing a gastroscopy or colonoscopy here.




References

Cancer Screening. (2010, Feb). Retrieved from MOH Clinical Practice Guideline: https://www.moh.gov.sg/docs/librariesprovider4/guidelines/cpg_cancer-screening.pdf


Physician, A. F. (1 Sep 2005). Best Cutoff Age for Endoscopy in Uncomplicated Dyspepsia. AFP Physician, 72(5):883.


Worldwide cancer data. (n.d.). Retrieved from American Institute for Cancer Research: https://www.wcrf.org/dietandcancer/worldwide-cancer-data/



- Written by Lina and Jolene

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