Colonoscopy – Colon Cancer Screening
Colonoscopy is a procedure in which our physicians use a colonoscope or scope, to look inside your rectum and colon. Colonoscopy can show irritated and swollen tissue, ulcers, polyps, and cancer.
A colonoscopy can help find the cause of symptoms, such as
- bleeding from your anus
- changes in your bowel activity, such as diarrhea
- pain in your abdomen
- unexplained weight loss
Our physicians also use colonoscopy as a screening tool for colon polyps and cancer. Screening is testing for diseases when you have no symptoms. Screening may find diseases at an early stage, when a doctor has a better chance of curing the disease.
Screening for Colon and Rectal Cancer
Our physicians may recommend screening for colon and rectal cancer also called colorectal cancer starting at age 50 if you don’t have health problems or risk factors that make you more likely to develop colon cancer.
You have risk factors for colorectal cancer if you:
- are male
- are African American
- or someone in your family has had polyps or colorectal cancer
- have a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
- have Lynch syndrome , or another genetic disorder that increases the risk of colorectal cancer
- have other factors, such as that you weigh too much or smoke cigarettes
- If you are more likely to develop colorectal cancer, your doctor may recommend screening at a younger age, and more often.
If you are older than age 75, talk with one of our physicians about whether you should be screened.
Government health insurance plans, such as Medicare, and private insurance plans sometimes change whether and how often they pay for cancer screening tests. Check with your insurance plan to find out how often your plan will cover a screening colonoscopy.
How do I prepare for a colonoscopy?
To prepare for a colonoscopy, you will need to talk with your doctor, change your diet for a few days, clean out your bowel, and arrange for a ride home after the procedure.
You should talk with one of our physicians about any health problems you have and all prescribed and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements you take, including
- arthritis medicines
- aspirin or medicines that contain aspirin
- blood thinners
- diabetes medicines
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen
- vitamins that contain iron or iron supplements
How do we perform a colonoscopy?
Our physicians perform a colonoscopy in a hospital or an outpatient center. A colonoscopy usually takes 30 to 60 minutes.
A health care professional will place an intravenous (IV) needle in a vein in your arm or hand to give you sedatives, anesthesia, or pain medicine, so you won’t be aware or feel pain during the procedure. The health care staff will check your vital signs and keep you as comfortable as possible.
For the procedure, you’ll lie on a table while the doctor inserts a colonoscope through your anus and into your rectum and colon. The scope inflates your large intestine with air for a better view. The camera sends a video image to a monitor, allowing the doctor to examine your large intestine.
Your physician may move you several times on the table to adjust the scope for better viewing. Once the scope reaches the opening to your small intestine, the doctor slowly removes the scope and examines the lining of your large intestine again.
During the procedure, your physicianmay remove polyps and will send them to a lab for testing. You will not feel the polyp removal. Colon polyps are common in adults and are harmless in most cases. However, most colon cancer begins as a polyp, so removing polyps early helps to prevent cancer.
If your doctor finds abnormal tissue, he or she may perform a biopsy. You won’t feel the biopsy.