You’ve probably heard of a colonoscopy. Your doctor may even have recommended that you have one done. But what is a colonoscopy, and when should you schedule yours?

Your colon is the end of your large intestine. A colonoscopy is a test to look at the inside of your colon and rectum to find out whether you have any abnormalities or changes inside your colon such as polyps, colon cancer, or Crohn’s Disease. It can also help diagnose or rule out conditions if you have symptoms like blood in your stool, abdominal pain, or bowel irregularities.

Why should you have a colonoscopy?

There are a few reasons to have a colonoscopy, and they vary depending on factors such as your age, your family history, your general health, and other risks. 

Colonoscopies are done for three basic reasons:

  • To screen for colorectal cancer
    • Everyone should have a colonoscopy screening by age 50. (African Americans should have one by age 45.) If you’re approaching your 45th or 50th birthday, talk to your doctor about getting a referral for a colonoscopy. If you have a family history of colon cancer or have certain risk factors, you may need to have a colonoscopy earlier. 
  • To look for the cause of intestinal symptoms, such as pain, rectal bleeding or blood in the stool, and bowel irregularities like constipation or diarrhea
  • To look for and remove new polyps
  • For general detection or prevention of:

There are other reasons doctors perform colonoscopies. Talk to your doctor about when to schedule your exam.

What to Expect from a Colonoscopy Procedure

There is a lot of information floating around the internet about colonoscopies and what you should expect, but not all of it is accurate. We’ll give you a brief overview here, and you can learn more on our What to Expect Before and After a Colonoscopy page.

Before a colonoscopy, you will have to do some preparation to clear your intestinal tract so the doctors will be able to clearly visualize the inside of your colon. As part of the preparation, you will need to be on a clear liquid diet for 24 hours prior to the procedure, and you will have to drink a laxative. Thanks to advances in preparation procedures, this process is easier than it once was.

Colonoscopies are typically done with conscious sedation and some pain killers, so you should not be fully aware of what is happening, and we will work hard to ensure your comfort. During the procedure, your doctor will insert a scope (a thin tube with a camera on it) into your rectum to take pictures of the inside of your colon. If the doctor sees any abnormalities, such as polyps or abnormal tissue, he or she will be able to remove the polyps and biopsy any abnormal tissue. Any polyps or tissue removed can then be tested to help diagnose abnormalities.

After the procedure, it will take about an hour for the sedation to wear off. You will not be able to drive yourself home, so you will have to have someone accompany you. You may need to eat a special diet for a short while after the procedure. Your doctor will let you know what to expect in terms of recovery and when you can get back to eating a normal diet.

Scheduling a Colonoscopy

Now that you know a bit about what a colonoscopy is and why you should have one, it may be time to schedule yours. Most insurance companies require you to have a referral, so talk to your doctor about giving you a referral right away. You should be able to get one from your general practitioner or gastroenterologist.

If you’re over 45 or 50 (depending on your race) and haven’t had a screening colonoscopy, it’s time to take your health into your own hands.

Reduce Your Risks of Colorectal Cancer. Talk to a Beaumont doctor today.