Colonoscopy

Colorectal Cancer is Preventable

Preventive screening is the best way to find an issue before it becomes colorectal cancer.

Sometimes, people choose to put off screening due to worries about the time, cost, embarrassment or a lack of symptoms. Even without a family history, signs or risk factors, people can still be at risk. All it takes is one day and one screening to safeguard yourself from the second deadliest cancer.

Especially for patients 45 years or older, it’s important to talk to a doctor about whether colonoscopy or another screening option is right for you.


What is a colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy is a diagnostic procedure that allows your doctor to examine the entire length of your large intestine. They will use a colonoscope – a lighted scope with a camera.

What can a colonoscopy detect?

Colonoscopy can help find problems with the colon, such as early signs of cancer, inflamed tissue, ulcers and bleeding.

Doctors also use colonoscopy to screen for colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. and the fourth most common cancer in men and women.

You likely have more questions. Learn more in our frequently asked questions below.

Colonoscopy FAQ

When is a colonoscopy recommended?

The American Cancer Society recommends starting screening at age 45, then every 10 years after that. You might need to start younger and get screened more often if you’re at higher risk for colorectal cancer, based on family history or other factors.

Colonoscopy is one of the most common colon screening procedures. Colorectal screen-at-home options also are available on the market. However, you’ll need to collect your own stool samples and complete the test every one to three years.

Another advantage of visiting a clinic for a colonoscopy: It helps prevent cancer. During the procedure, your doctor can remove polyps that could develop into cancer.

Who is at risk for colorectal cancer?

People with any of the following colorectal cancer risk factors should begin screening procedures at an earlier age and be screened more often:

  • Strong family history of colorectal cancer or non-cancerous polyps - in a parent or sibling before the age of 60 or in two parents or siblings of any age
  • Family with hereditary colorectal cancer syndromes, such as familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer
  • Personal history of colorectal cancer or non-cancerous polyps
  • Personal history of chronic inflammatory bowel disease

What can I expect from a colonoscopy?

The procedure itself is not typically the biggest fear factor. Instead, patients get anxious about the “bowel prep” beforehand.

Talk with your doctor about your options, and make a plan based on your individual needs.

Before Your Colonoscopy
  • Your doctor will give you specific ways to prepare for the test such as drinking a special fluid that helps clean out your bowel.
  • You will be asked to fast for eight hours before the procedure.
  • You may get additional instructions about a special diet for one to two days prior to the procedure.
During Your Colonoscopy
  • You will be given a gown to wear, and you’ll lie down on your side.
  • You may get a sedative to help you relax or sleep.
  • The whole procedure is done in about 30 minutes.
After Your Colonoscopy
  • You can go home the same day and go back to work or regular activities the next day.
  • Your doctor may ask you to follow a special diet for the first 24 hours after the procedure.
  • If your doctor removed polyps or took samples, they will probably tell you right after your procedure. If more testing is needed, your results may take a few weeks.

Where can I get a colonoscopy?

Sanford Health provides colonoscopy procedures at many locations. Find a doctor or location near you.

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