Colonoscopy 101: What you need to know

Aug 01, 2022

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. I want to take this opportunity to help you better understand colon cancer and the role colonoscopy can play in prevention of this cancer.

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. I want to take this opportunity to help you better understand colon cancer and the role colonoscopy can play in prevention of this cancer.

Why should I be screened for colon cancer? Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine. An estimated 1 in 20 Americans are at risk of developing this cancer in their lifetime. Screening for colon cancer is extremely important because we can find and treat problems before cancer develops or spreads. Screening may reduce the risk of death caused by colon cancer.

Who needs to be screened? All men and women should be screened. Screening should begin at 50 for most men and women. Some people may require earlier screening. You should ask your physician if you need to be screened before age 50.

What’s the best screening test for colon cancer?Colonoscopy, with a good preparation, provides the best method of screening for colon cancer. It is the only screening test that allows me to immediately remove polyps that may be pre-cancerous.

What is a polyp? A colon polyp is a clump of cells that forms on the lining of the colon. Polyps come in many varieties. Hyperplastic polyps have no cancer potential and do not require close follow up. Polyps that are adenomatous have the potential of developing into cancer. These come in several types: serrated, tubular and villous.

Can a colonoscopy detect other problems? Yes. A colonoscopy can also detect other abnormalities such as inflammation, diverticulosis, hemorrhoids and other lesions. It is a useful and accurate tool to evaluate some abdominal complaints.

How do I prepare for my colonoscopy? We will prescribe a bowel “prep” and also give you exact instructions to follow. The colon needs to be completely clean prior to the colonoscopy to allow the physician to thoroughly examine the entire colon. “Preps” are much easier than they used to be 10-20 years ago. You will need to follow a clear liquid diet 24 hours prior to the procedure. I recommend that your bowel “prep” be split dose. This means you will take one half of the “prep” and then the second half hours later. Ideally, the second dose should be started 5-6 hours before the colonoscopy. Currently, there are several smaller volume “preps” on the market that make the preparation easier (if your insurance will cover).

Will I need a repeat colonoscopy? If you have a normal colonoscopy or if only hyperplastic polyps are found, you will need a repeat colonoscopy in 10 years. There are several exceptions:

  • If you develop symptoms.
  • If you have a first degree relative with colon cancer, then you may need a repeat study every 5 years since your risk is twice the risk of the general population.
  • If adenomatous polyps are identified, you may need your repeat colonoscopy sooner to ensure there is no re-growth or development of new adenomas.

Why should I choose a gastroenterologist to perform my colonoscopy? Recent studies reveal that gastroenterologists are more effective at preventing colon cancer by colonoscopy than other physicians, including surgeons. This likely represents more complete colonoscopies and higher rates of detection of adenomatous polyps. Our physicians are all board certified and adhere to the guidelines of the American Gastroenterological Association and the American College of Gastroenterology.

How do I schedule a colonoscopy? Scheduling a colonoscopy is easy. Contact us today!