Colonoscopy

Effective, convenient screening to find and prevent colon cancer.

According to data from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program, colon and rectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the U.S, and the second leading cause of cancer-related death. However, this type of cancer is highly treatable if we find it early. The best way to detect colon cancer early is to have a colonoscopy. This colon cancer screening test lets us detect and treat tiny growths in your colon called polyps, which can develop into colon cancer over time.

Our expert gastroenterologists are here to help you get the screening you need to prevent or treat colon cancer. We perform colonoscopies at locations throughout southeast Michigan so you can get the care you need close to home. We’ll support you throughout the process and make it as simple and convenient as possible.

Why do I need a colonoscopy?

Most colon cancers start as polyps inside the colon, and many people will develop polyps during their lives. Polyps and colon cancer in early stages usually don’t have symptoms, which is why we refer to them as “silent” diseases. Without testing, you may not know you have dangerous polyps or colon cancer until the disease is in later stages, when it is much harder to treat successfully.

Although there are other screening methods for colon cancer, such as Cologuard, a colonoscopy has the highest successful cancer detection rate. In addition, a colonoscopy is also the only way to remove polyps before they can develop into colon cancer. That means, even if you use another screening method, you still may need a colonoscopy if the screening finds something suspicious. And, if you have a negative colonoscopy (meaning no polyps or cancerous cells), you won’t need another one for 10 years.

We recommend regular colonoscopies between the ages of 45 and 75 if you’re at normal risk for colon cancer. Some insurance providers only cover colonoscopies beginning at age 50, so we recommend calling your insurer to ask if they cover colonoscopies between the ages of 45 and 49.

If you have a parent or sibling who’s been diagnosed with colon cancer, you should start regular colonoscopies at age 40 or 10 years younger than your relative’s age when they were diagnosed, whichever is younger. For example, if your parent was diagnosed at age 45, you should start colonoscopies when you’re 35.

Do I have to see a gastroenterologist before I have a colonoscopy?

Not always. You may qualify for our open-access colonoscopy, in which you can schedule a routine screening colonoscopy without first seeing a gastroenterologist. This can save you time and money by only having one office visit instead of two.

You may qualify for an open-access colonoscopy if you’re in good health with no complex heart disease, lung disease or other conditions that could lead to complications during sedation. Once your primary care doctor refers you to us for a colonoscopy, we’ll review your records and let you know if an open-access colonoscopy is right for you.

If you do have a condition that can increase the risk of sedation, we do want to schedule a consultation with one of our gastroenterologists before your colonoscopy to discuss the risks, benefits and how to prepare. Also, you will need to see a gastroenterologist before a colonoscopy if you’ve experienced any of the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal (belly) pain
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Unintended weight loss

How should I prepare for my colonoscopy?

It’s important to clean and empty your colon to ensure that your doctor can easily see and remove any precancerous polyps during your colonoscopy. This involves following a liquid diet and taking strong laxatives a day or two before your procedure to empty your colon. This is called bowel prep, and your care team will give you instructions ahead of time on what to do. Stay near a bathroom during your bowel prep, as you’ll need to go often.

Watch the below video to learn more about colon prep for your colonoscopy.

What can I expect during my colonoscopy?

You’ll be sedated during your colonoscopy to minimize your discomfort. During the procedure, your doctor will insert a colonoscope (a thin, flexible tube with a tiny light and camera) through the rectum and into your colon. The colonoscope’s camera gives your doctor detailed views of your colon’s interior on a screen in your exam room. If your doctor detects any polyps, we usually can remove them during the procedure. Watch the below video to learn more about polyp removal.

 

Your colonoscopy will take about 20 minutes to complete, but you should plan to be with us for about two hours total. This includes consultations and monitoring before and after the procedure. You’ll need to have someone with you to drive you home after your colonoscopy. You can resume light activities after recovering from your sedative medication, and you can return to all normal activities the day after your procedure.

Immediately after the procedure, your doctor will go over your preliminary results. If we take biopsies or remove polyps, you’ll receive those results within one to two weeks. 

If your colonoscopy is negative, that means your doctor didn’t find any polyps. If your doctor finds precancerous polyps, you’ll need regular follow-up colonoscopies to check for additional polyps in the future. If your doctor finds cancer, we’ll work with you to create a personalized treatment plan.

Are there any risks with a colonoscopy?

It’s normal to feel nervous about having a procedure, but a colonoscopy is one of the safest procedures we perform. The main risks with colonoscopy are bleeding and perforation of the colon, which are extremely rare.

Only about one in every 2,000 colonoscopies (0.05 percent) results in any bleeding or perforation. Compared to the overall risk of colon cancer — 4.1%, or one in about every 24 people, according to data from the National Cancer Institute — the risk of complications from a colonoscopy is much lower than your risk of colon cancer.

Watch the video below to learn more about the low risks involved with a colonoscopy.   

Get Screened

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.

Request an Appointment

Schedule Appointment Online

Please call 911 if you have an emergency or urgent medical question.

Already a Henry Ford patient?
For the best experience, existing Henry Ford patients can request and self-schedule appointments through Henry Ford MyChart.

Henry Ford Health System is committed to ensuring our Deaf or hard-of-hearing patients and visitors have equal access to all services. We provide the appropriate auxiliary aids and services, including qualified sign language interpreters, TTYs and other assistive listening devices, at no cost. To request assistance, call 313-916-1896 or email [email protected].

Schedule Appointment for