Colorectal cancer screening is the best means to catch pre-cancerous polyps and diagnose colon cancer at its earliest stage, when it’s treatable and curable.
Colonoscopy FAQs: Everything You Need To Know About This Life-Saving Procedure
Colon cancer is the 3rd most common cancer in the U.S.
Although colon cancer can be deadly, it is highly treatable if found and treated early. A colonoscopy is a colon cancer screening test that can detect and treat precancerous growths to lower your risk of developing colon cancer.
At Henry Ford Health System, we specialize in providing the most advanced procedures for diagnosing gastrointestinal disorders. An open access colonoscopy is a safe, effective procedure that offers you more convenience.
What is open access colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure in which our physicians use an endoscope (thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera) to examine your large intestine. During a colonoscopy, the physician looks for and can often remove polyps, which are tiny growths that can lead to cancer.
Usually, you have to see a gastroenterologist before being able to schedule a colonoscopy. At Henry Ford, we make it a lot easier to have this routine test.
Open access colonoscopy lets you schedule a colonoscopy without the need for a pre-procedure visit. That means you only have to come in for 1 office visit, not 2, saving you time and money.
What is a colonoscopy screening?
A colonoscopy is a routine procedure that looks for polyps (or small overgrowths of tissue) and other conditions that can affect the digestive tract. During a colonoscopy, a doctor passes through the colon a colonoscope (a thin, flexible tube with a tiny light and camera at the end). If polyps are found, the doctor will usually remove them during the procedure. A colonoscopy is the preferred method to identify pre-cancerous polyps and prevent colon cancer.
Why is a colonoscopy screening important?
Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States. If found early, it’s also one of the most curable cancers. It’s believed that most colon cancers start off as polyps on the inside of the colon. Polyps themselves are very common, and many people will have polyps in their lifetime. While there are various ways to screen for polyps, a colonoscopy has the highest detection rate. A colonoscopy is the only way polyps can be removed to prevent them from becoming cancerous.
Colon polyps and early colon cancer usually do not have symptoms. Since these are “silent” conditions, it’s important to get screenings to look for these lesions before they cause health consequences.
How should I prepare for my colonoscopy?
Before the procedure, it is important to clean the colon to ensure that pre-cancerous polyps can be found and safely removed. A day or two before your colonoscopy, your doctor will ask you to complete a bowel prep. This includes sticking to a liquid diet and taking strong laxatives to empty your colon. Stay near a bathroom as you may need to go frequently.
What can I expect during my colonoscopy?
During the procedure, you will be sedated so that you can sleep through the colonoscopy and not feel any discomfort. In a private room, a colorectal surgeon or gastroenterologist (a doctor who specializes in the intestinal tract and digestive organs) will glide a colonoscope through the rectum and into the colon to view images of the inside of your colon on a screen. The colonoscopy itself usually only takes 20 minutes, but please plan to be in the unit for two hours total, which includes both the pre- and post-procedure monitoring.
The sleeping medication only lasts for a short period of time, but please have someone with you on the day of the procedure to drive you home afterward. You will probably be sleepy and should not drive, but you can resume light activities after waking up. You can expect to be back to normal activities the following day.
Are there any risks with a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a routine exam, but it’s normal to feel anxious. A colonoscopy is one of the safest procedures we perform. The biggest risks with colonoscopy are bleeding and perforation, which are very rare. Generally, they occur once in every 2,000 colonoscopies. The risk of colon cancer in the general population is one in 20 to 25 people, so the risk of developing colon cancer is much higher than the risk of perforation.
When will I receive my colonoscopy results?
You should receive your results within three days of the exam. Negative results mean the doctor did not find polyps. Your physician will tell you when you should have another screening. If the doctor finds polyps, he or she will biopsy the removed polyps and examine the tissues for cancer.
Precancerous polyps require regular follow-up colonoscopies. Your doctor might recommend additional procedures or immediate testing. Cancerous polyps require more treatment. Your doctor will offer recommendations to develop a treatment plan.
Do I have to see a gastroenterologist before getting a colonoscopy?
Not always. We offer a service called open access colonoscopy where patients can schedule routine screening colonoscopies without first going to see a gastroenterologist. This saves you time and money.
You may schedule an open access colonoscopy as long as you:
- Are between 45 and 80 years old.
- Have a parent or sibling diagnosed with colon cancer, in which case you should be screened at age 40 or 10 years younger than the relative’s age when diagnosed.
- Are referred by your primary care physician.
If you have multiple health concerns, a nurse will provide your medical records and first consult a doctor. Some insurance plans do not cover preventative health screenings. Check with your insurance carrier to determine your coverage.