What to expect from a colonoscopy during the COVID-19 pandemic
Thursday 18 February 2021
Dr Lisa Wilde, Director of Research and External Affairs at the charity, talks about her experience of having a colonoscopy during the COVID-19 pandemic after noticing some bowel cancer symptoms.
Almost on a daily basis with my job at Bowel Cancer UK I talk about the importance of acting quickly on symptoms. So, when I developed a change in bowel habits, pain in my tummy and then significant bleeding from my bottom, I knew I had to seek help without delay. It did feel very strange to be on the other side of the fence.
At the moment, accessing healthcare is complicated by COVID. The first sign of that came with the telephone appointment (rather than face-to-face) I had with my GP, who asked me really thorough questions, including if I had a family history of bower cancer. At 47, I knew that getting my symptoms taken seriously may be challenging. But, as it turned out, I didn't have anything to worry about. My GP booked me in for a physical examination, blood tests, a FIT test and put me on the urgent cancer referral pathway (a two week wait). I felt so fortunate my GP was so clued up and willing to listen. Bowel Cancer UK knows from our Never Too Young report that many younger people are not so fortunate, and can struggle to have their symptoms taken seriously.
A short while later I was booked in for my colonoscopy, which started with a trip to the 'COVID Hub' at Croydon University Hospital. This is a walk/drive through service where you have a COVID test outside of the hospital four days before your procedure, and you then have to self-isolate until the colonoscopy. It was really strange to sit in my car while a stranger popped a swab up my nose!
From start to finish on the day of my colonoscopy I felt incredibly reassured by the COVID-secure measures in place.
From start to finish on the day of my colonoscopy I felt incredibly reassured by the COVID-secure measures in place. I was the only person in the endoscopy waiting room, before being seen by a nurse to take my vitals and consenting to the procedure. I then changed into a gown and some rather fetching blue disposable shorts with a flap at the back, so I didn't feel exposed at any point! I was then taken to a ward where one other woman was waiting and one had just come back from their procedure. We were all well-spaced out and wearing masks and the staff were in full PPE.
The procedure itself was a little uncomfortable due to me having a 'long, loopy' colon (!!) but the staff upped my pain medication and sedation so that I remained relaxed and pain-free for the rest of the colonoscopy.
The next thing I remembered was being back on the ward where, very shortly afterwards, I got dressed and was given details of what they'd found, which was fortunately nothing serious. I was handed over to the care of my husband who had had to wait in the corridor to keep the endoscopy ward as safe as possible, and by lunchtime I was home having tea and toast.