Why do I need to have a colonoscopy procedure?
Getting a colonoscopy can save your life. With a colonoscopy colon cancer screening, a polyp can be removed before it can develop into colon cancer. A colonoscopy can also detect early stage colon cancer, and if present can be treatable. If you're 50 or older (or younger, with a family history of colon cancer) and have never had a colonoscopy then you need one.
When should I get my first colonoscopy?
You need a colonoscopy at age 50 (or 45 for African Americans) if you are average risk for colon cancer. You may need to get a colonoscopy earlier if you have a family hx of advanced colon polyps or colon cancer. Speak with your doctor.
How much does it cost and will my insurance cover it?
The majority of insurance companies cover colon cancer screening, including colonoscopy. In fact, most states have mandated insurance coverage for colonoscopy. However, your portion of the cost of colonoscopy varies greatly depending on your insurance coverage, where you have it done, and whether biopsies are performed or colon polyps are removed.
Because the costs are so variable, if you're uninsured you should talk to your healthcare facility to discuss charges and payment options.
What do I have to do to get ready?
In order for your doctor to get a good view of your colon lining to make sure that it is healthy, your bowel needs to be as empty and as clean as possible. The day before and few hours before a colonoscopy you will need to take a bowel prep, (based on your medical problems and medications), that will make you and your bathroom wallpaper good friends. Another very important issue prior to colonoscopy is following your doctor's instructions to adjust any medications that may make the procedure more hazardous or increase the risk for you if colon polyps need to be removed. Contact your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about the instructions, the bowel prep you have been prescribed, or if you experience any unexpected problems during or after the prep.
If you don't complete the preparation as instructed, your doctor may not be able to see your colon lining to detect abnormalities such as a cancerous polyp. The doctor will strongly recommend the procedure be repeated, maybe as soon as the next day. This means you must undergo yet another day of clear liquids, repeat the bowel prep and ask a responsible adult for another ride home.
How long does the procedure take?
Most patients arrive about 30 minutes prior to the procedure to change clothes and get admitted to the pre-procedure room. Many people are surprised at how quickly the actual procedure flies by. A colonoscopy procedure usually takes less than half an hour, and you most likely won't notice the time going by because you'll be under the influence of some calming drugs. Recovery is rapid and you will be provided a drink about thirty minutes after the procedure is completed and you regain complete consciousness. However, put aside about three hours of the day for the entire process.
Does getting a colonoscopy hurt?
Most individuals are given sedatives to make them very comfortable during the colonoscopy procedure. The type of sedation used is based on the facility and the patient preferences. Those who are more awake are amazed to be able to watch the exam and converse during it; however, many people wake up in the recovery room with little recollection of the procedures. At the time of a colonoscopy, because the colon is collapsed, your doctor uses air to inflate your colon for a good view. Instilling air into your colon may cause bloating and make you feel full during or after the procedure. You will be encouraged by staff to let this air pass without feeling embarrassed.
When will I get the results of the colonoscopy procedure?
You will be informed about the results immediately after you wake up. In addition, your physician will provide you with a list of written discharge instructions including what symptoms may be normal after colonoscopy and what symptoms should prompt you to call them or seek urgent medical attention. If you experience severe abdominal pain, excessive rectal bleeding or blood in stool, fever, or anything unanticipated following the procedure, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
What happens if the doctor finds something abnormal?
If polyps are found in your colon during a colonoscopy, they can be removed using specialized tools called biopsy forceps or snares that run inside the colonoscope. The retrieved colon polyps will then be sent to a lab for full evaluation under the microscope. Your doctor will then be able to tell you whether the removed polyp was a benign or a cancerous polyp.
If a polyp or tumor is too big to be safely removed through the colonoscope, your doctor will only sample the tissue and send it to the lab for further testing.
If other abnormalities are found in the colon, or the colonoscopy is being done to determine the cause of symptoms, biopsies can be performed and send to the lab for further testing.
The results of the biopsies take approximately 10-14 days to come back from the lab. It is important to follow up with your doctor to review the biopsies results, along with your procedure results as you may not recall every thing your doctor told you immediately after the procedure since you were sedated. Important information to gather from your doctor includes the number, size, and pathology of colon polyps detected and the interval until the next colonoscopy should be scheduled.
How long does it take to recover?
Most people feel okay when they get into the recovery area. You may feel a bit groggy from the sedation/anesthesia and weak from the bowel prep process. Hence, you may not be allowed to leave the recovery room alone or drive yourself until the next day. So, it is a good idea to a designated driver take you back home following the procedure.
You should continue to take it easy the rest of the day following a colonoscopy, you'll probably not feel completely up to speed for the rest of the day. It is a good idea to eat some light food and lots of fluids and getting a good night's sleep so that you're ready to go the next morning.
What are the alternatives to a colon cancer screening colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is by far the best, most thorough way to determine the cause of colon symptoms and to detect and remove colorectal polyps and to diagnose colon cancer. For colorectal cancer screening, other tests, including virtual Colonoscopy (CT colonography), flexible sigmoidoscopy, fecal occult blood and DNA tests, and double contrast barium enema are other available screening tools. Each of these has its advantages and disadvantages. If any abnormalities are uncovered with these alternative tests, you need a colonoscopy to confirm the findings and remove colon polyps, if present.
If you have questions that are not covered here, please contact our office.