colonoscopy diagramColonoscopy is a highly effective procedure primarily used to screen for colon cancer.

Download our informative colonoscopy brochure
(includes information on what to expect before, during and after your colonoscopy).

What is colonoscopy?

Direct visual examination of the colon, ileocecal value, and portions of the terminal ileum by means of a fiberoptic endoscope. Colonoscopy is best performed by a qualified gastroenterology specialist in a specialized endoscopy suite (occasionally may be carried out at the bedside in an intensive care unit).

With the patient awake but sedated, a flexible endoscope is inserted per rectum and advanced through the various portions of the lower GI tract. Important anatomic landmarks are identified and mucosal surfaces are examined for ulcerations, polyps, friable areas, hemorrhagic sites, neoplasms, strictures, etc.

Minor operative procedures may then be performed utilizing the standard colonoscope with appropriate accessories. These procedures include tissue biopsy for histopathology and/or microbiologic culture, polypectomy, electrocoagulation of bleeding sites, removal of foreign bodies, hot biopsy/fulguration of tumor, and others.

Reasons to Perform Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy is used for colon cancer screening, as well as helping to find ulcers, colon polyps, tumors, and areas of inflammation or bleeding.

Screening for Colon Cancer

The American Cancer Society “Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer” recommend, beginning at age 50, both men and women follow one of these testing schedules for screening to find colon polyps and cancer:

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years
  • Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years

What bowel preparation is needed for colonoscopy?

The colon cleansing preparation is very important for you to get an optimal result. If the colon is poorly prepared then important findings such as cancer or precancerous tumors might be missed. The preparation involves dietary restriction to only clear liquids for most or all of the day prior to the exam in addition to taking a large volume bowel cleansing preparation that is usually divided into two doses.

It is important to comply with all the instructions for this to be effective. You should also receive special guidance in regards to certain medications you may be taking; e.g if you are on blood thinning agents you may or may not be advised to hold this several days prior to the procedure.

Learn more about Bowel Prep

What should I expect during colonoscopy?

Patients are usually given medicine to help them relax or sleep during the procedure. The exam takes only about thirty minutes. Your gastroenterologist will discuss with you how often this procedure needs to be done depending on your personal risk for colon cancer. Your doctor will also go over all colon cancer screening guidelines and any concerns or hesitations you might have.