Dr Sadqa Gul
Q: How can I get screened for bowel cancer? There is a history of bowel cancer in my family. I've read about screening where the large intestine is checked for polyps that may be cancerous. Do I need to go to a doctor and ask to be referred to a specialist? I have never been to a hospital so I just don't have a clue how these things work. Please advise. Sadia, Lahore
A: Given your family history, the most important examination for you to undergo is a colonoscopy. That test will enable the examining doctor to inspect the entire length of your colon and establish if any polyps are present. You should first attend a general physician of your choice who can perform an initial medical assessment, but to answer your real concern, a colonoscopy would be necessary. The physician would refer you to a specialist who could perform this examination for you. The specialist would then forward the results of the test to the general physician who could then co-ordinate any follow up that might be necessary. The colonoscopy that I refer to involves the insertion of a special scope through the anus, which is then advanced up though the entire length of the colon so that its full extent can be inspected. If any polyps are present, they can be removed during that examination. Colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure and does not require admission to hospital.