A colonoscopy is a common outpatient procedure that examines the inside of your large intestine (colon and rectum). It looks for inflammation, colorectal polyps (noncancerous growths) and colon cancer. Preventing colorectal cancer and removing polyps are the two main reasons to have a colonoscopy.
When and how often should I get a colonoscopy?
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening for colorectal cancer starting at age 50 and continuing until age 75.
How often you should have a colonoscopy depends on your risk for colon cancer.
- If you have no colorectal symptoms, family history of colon cancer, polyps or inflammatory bowel disease, you should have the procedure every 10 years, starting at age 50.
- If you have a personal or family history of polyps, colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease, your doctor may begin colonoscopy earlier and more often.
How to prepare for a colonoscopy?
Before a colonoscopy, your doctor will give you instructions on how to use a "bowel prep" to empty your colon. This solution cleans and removes of all solid material before the procedure.
What to expect during a colonoscopy?
You will be asleep during the procedure. Your doctor uses a flexible tool called a colonoscope. The colonoscope is inserted into the anus and moved into the rectum. Air flows into the colon to expand it and give your doctor a clearer view. If you have polyps in your colon, your doctor uses tools inside the colonoscope to remove them. Sample tissue (biopsy) from a polyp is sent to a lab for testing. The procedure takes thirty minutes to one hour.
Watch a colonoscopy procedure.
What happens after a colonoscopy?
You’ll wait for the effects of the sedative to wear off, which takes up to two hours. You should not drive a vehicle or make important decisions for the rest of the day. Be sure to arrange for a family member or friend to drive you home. You can expect to resume your normal activities the day after your colonoscopy.
A colonoscopy is positive if your doctor finds polyps or abnormal tissue in the colon. Polyps removed during colonoscopy are analyzed in a lab to determine whether they are cancerous, precancerous or noncancerous.
Contact your primary care physician to find out if a colonoscopy is right for you or schedule an appointment with one of our primary care offices.