Frequently asked colonoscopy questions
What is a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is an exam that a doctor performs to visually examine the inside of your colon. Colonoscopies are considered the gold standard for detecting abnormalities within the colon.
Why do I need to get a colonoscopy?
The simple answer is that getting a colonoscopy can save your life. A colonoscopy can detect and remove polyps before they potentially develop into colon cancer. It can also detect early stage colon cancer, if present, so it can be identified while still highly treatable.
When should I get my first colonoscopy?
Both men and women should have their first colonoscopy by age 50, unless there are reasons for your healthcare provider to recommend one sooner. These reasons may include a family history of colon cancer or colon polyps, a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, or certain gastrointestinal (GI) issues. Race is another factor. African Americans should have their first screening by age 45, as they have a higher risk of and death rate from colon cancer.
Aside from colon cancer, what are some other issues that a colonoscopy can be used to diagnose?
Other GI issues that a colonoscopy can be used to diagnose include chronic, unexplained abdominal or rectal pain; rectal bleeding; an unexplained change in bowel habits; the feeling that your bowel doesn't empty completely; unintentional weight loss; iron deficiency anemia; inflammatory bowel disease, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease; and irritable bowel syndrome.
What is the difference between a colonoscopy screening and a diagnostic colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy screening is performed to detect signs of colorectal cancer, even when there are no apparent symptoms of colon or other GI issues. A diagnostic colonoscopy is performed if symptoms of colorectal cancer or other GI conditions are present, or if other tests yield abnormal results.
What is a virtual colonoscopy?
A virtual colonoscopy is a procedure in which a doctor inspects the inside of the large intestine using a 3-dimensional picture created by a computer. Unlike a traditional colonoscopy, the virtual colonoscopy does not allow the doctor to remove polyps during the procedure.
Will the procedure hurt?
The colonoscopy itself is virtually painless, as most patients are sedated during the procedure. In fact, many people report waking up from a colonoscopy with no memory of the exam at all.
What if my doctor finds something abnormal?
If your doctor finds polyps during the procedure, he or she can remove the majority of them using the tools inside the colonoscope. If a polyp is too big to be safely removed using these tools, the doctor can take a biopsy (the removal of a small piece of tissue) for further testing. It may take up to a week to receive the results of these tests.
How will I feel after my colonoscopy?
Most people don't remember their colonoscopy. However, you may feel a bit groggy from the sedative and weak from the procedure. You won't be allowed to leave the recovery room by yourself, and you may experience some gas and bloating for the first 24 hours after your colonoscopy. Consult your physician if you experience anything unusual.
How much does a colonoscopy cost, and will my insurance cover it?
The majority of insurance companies cover colon cancer screening, including colonoscopy. Your portion of the cost of colonoscopy may vary, so you should talk to your healthcare facility to discuss charges and payment options and to understand how much your insurance will cover.