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Colonoscopy and Colon Cancer Screening

A little prevention could save your life

60% of colorectal cancer deaths could have been prevented with a screening. With the right schedule, colonoscopies can detect serious problems before it's too late.

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure that lets your doctor examine the lining of your large intestine (colon and rectum) for abnormalities. A colonoscopy is used to evaluate gastrointestinal symptoms, like rectal and intestinal bleeding, abdominal pain, or changes in bowel habits. Additionally the test is used for individuals without symptoms, to look for colorectal polyps or cancer. Colonoscopies are used to screen for colon cancer and identify and remove abnormal growths and polyps that can potentially grow into cancer.

A colonoscopy screening is recommended for anyone 50 years of age and older (45 years of age in the African American population in the absence of a family history of colon cancer). Patients with a family history of colon cancer or polyps may need to be screened sooner.

It is essential for you to follow all instructions given by your doctor’s office.

What is it used for?

A colonoscopy is an effective way to diagnose and treat a variety of disorders:

Before the procedure

For the test to be effective, the colon must be empty and clean. Rather than giving an incomplete and poor examination, your procedure will need to be rescheduled if the prep was not fully completed.

You will take a prescription bowel cleanse to clean out your colon the day before the test. In certain situations your doctor may recommend an extended 2-day prep. Make sure to follow the instructions provided by the doctor’s office and inform your doctor of any medications that you are currently taking. Some medications may be adjusted prior to the procedure.

In most instances a colonoscopy will include:

  • A discussion of the risks of the procedure will be discussed before proceeding.
  • You will wear a hospital gown and an IV will be started.
  • You will be given sedation to allow the doctor to complete the procedure safely.
  • You will lie on your left side, with your knees drawn up towards your chest.
  • The procedure will last from 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Colonoscopy Prep Instructions

During the procedure

A colonoscopy lets your doctor examine the inside of your lower digestive tract. Your doctor will use a colonoscope (flexible instrument with a camera and light on its end) to look for abnormalities that may be present. The scope is inserted into the rectum and advanced through the large intestine while the patient is under sedation.

During the procedure, the doctor might take a biopsy or remove polyps. Polyps are growths of tissues that are typically benign. Some polyps can become cancerous if not removed. Having a polyp removed does not cause any pain. A colonoscopy allows accurate diagnosis and treatment of colorectal problems in a minimally invasive fashion.

After the procedure

You will be monitored until most of the effects of the sedatives have worn off. You might have some cramping or bloating because of the air introduced into the colon during the examination. Your doctor will explain the results of the examination to you. If biopsies were performed you will have to wait a few days for those results to become available. You must have a driver take you home.

Does it hurt?

No, a colonoscopy is usually not painful. Almost all colonoscopies can be performed using “intravenous sedation” or “twilight sedation” in which you are very drowsy, but comfortable and still breathing on your own. The most common type of sedation also has a mild amnesiac effect, so most patients do not even remember the procedure. Your doctor can discuss with you the best form of sedation to suit your needs.

What to expect

When your procedure is scheduled you will receive detailed instructions regarding what you need to do to prepare for the procedure. Please make sure you read them carefully and follow as instructed.

Make sure you arrive to the procedure site at the time specified by your doctor.

Is the procedure safe?

Any procedure carries a small amount of risk and potential complications. These risks will be discussed with you in detail prior to the procedure and before the patient provides consent. Some of the risks with a colonoscopy include:

  • Infections
  • Bleeding
  • Perforation or creating a hole in the bowel

Contact us:

For patients whose colonoscopies were cancelled during the COVID-19 Pandemic, please view our checklist.

Our team remains available to answer your questions anytime beyond your clinic visit.

Call (412) DOCTORS (412) 362-8677 or request an appointment to learn more about colonoscopies.

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