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What is a Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a surgical procedure that explores the interior of the entire large intestine (colon) and rectum using an illuminated, flexible colonoscope. Your doctor will check for polyps, cancer, and other symptoms of intestinal issues with a camera at the tip of the colonoscope. You will ask your doctor how often, and what is the appropriate colonoscopy frequency for you.

The inner lining of the intestine may sometimes contain polyps, which are irregular growths. Although most are not cancerous, polyps do have the ability to become cancerous. If your doctor finds any colonoscopy polyps during your procedure, they will perform a biopsy.

The process of extracting a polyp involves moving an instrument through the scope, which will gently snip the irregular growth from the intestinal lining. During the biopsy, you should feel nothing, and you should not experience any healing discomfort. 

The vast majority of polyps are harmless; nevertheless, your doctor will have it tested and check the findings for you to rule out any possible disease.

According to the American Cancer Society, the most effective way to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer is to get regular screenings starting at age 45. Your doctor may encourage you to get screened before age 45 if you have a family history of polyps or colon cancer. To ensure that you are qualified for early screening, be sure to contact your physician.

Risks & Benefits

A colonoscopy is a safe and efficient method for screening and treating colon polyps for colon cancer. Most colon cancer begins as a benign polyp, therefore removing these irregular growths reduces the risk of developing cancer.

Other complications a patient can suffer from, including blood loss, abdominal or rectal pain, changes in bowel habits, or active bleeding from the intestines, may also be investigated by colonoscopy. 

It's unusual for severe complications to occur during a colonoscopy; however, as in any medical procedure, complications are always a possibility. Removing a large polyp can result in excessive bleeding or a tear in the colon lining that may require surgery or hospitalization. 

How often should you get a colonoscopy? It depends on several factors like family history, initial findings, and even your racial background. Your physician will be sure to discuss the best timeline for you and your colonoscopy screenings. 

What to Expect

You will be given detailed prep instructions before your scheduled colonoscopy, to which you must strictly adhere. Failure to complete the prep correctly may result in an inability to move forward with the procedure. These guidelines will specify a special diet the day before the treatment and instructions for prescription drug consumption. Additionally, if you take some blood-thinning drug, your physician may recommend that you stop using it for 3-5 days before the procedure.

You might be wondering, “how long does it take?” Usually, the colonoscopy process takes 45 minutes. On the day of your colonoscopy, you will undergo anesthesiologic sedation to keep you relaxed. You will lie on the examination table on your left side during the operation, and then the doctor will insert the colonoscope into the rectum and gently move it through the colon. During the procedure, the physician uses a colonoscope fitted with many small instruments. One tool slightly inflates the colon to help the physician see the whole colon, another removes polyps or takes biopsies, and the third functions to stop any bleeding that may occur.

Following a colonoscopy, you may experience mild discomfort, similar to feeling bloated or gassy, but that feeling often subsides quickly. Later the same day, most patients can resume their daily diets. Anesthesia administered during the colonoscopy often causes patients to feel a little woozy for some time after the procedure. Due to this, patients must have a licensed driver to take them back home. Generally, colonoscopy side effects are minimal and rarely cause alarm. 

Forms & Preparation

To access copies of all the documents you may need for colonoscopy prep instructions, please click below.

New Patient Forms