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Screening Colonoscopy

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Do you want to prevent cancer and be on your way to better health?

Did you know that colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States? Yet, it’s also one of the most preventable and curable cancers if caught early. The best way to prevent colon cancer is through early detection with a colonoscopy.

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a screening test to help colon cancer prevention. It allows a specially trained doctor to look directly at the lining of the entire colon and rectum and remove any polyps that are found. A device called a colonoscope (a flexible tube smaller than a garden hose) is inserted through the anus (entrance to colon) and is moved through the colon while you are comfortably sedated. Our anesthesiologists use a mild anesthesia and monitor patients very closely during a colonoscopy. The procedure usually lasts between 15 and 30 minutes. A colonoscopy is a very common, recommended, and generally very safe procedure.

Why is colorectal cancer possibly preventable? 

Most colon cancers start as small noncancerous growths within the colon called polyps. When a polyp is found at the time of a colonoscopy and still non-cancerous, it can be removed, and the cancer may be prevented. Because most often there are no symptoms until the cancer is very advanced, colorectal cancer can only be caught early through a regular screening colonoscopy.

How will my physician identify if I have polyps at the time of my colonoscopy?

You will need to take an over the counter preparation that you will drink at home the day before the colonoscopy to clear the colon of waste (this will produce watery bowel movements). This is very important. A well-prepared colon allows the doctor to see polyps. This is like trying to look through mud at the bottom of a pool to find a marble instead of no mud. We will provide you with all the information you need to take the preparation. If your colon is not cleaned out well enough the ability to see and remove polyps is much harder to do. The procedure could need to be canceled for that day and rescheduled.

What happens after the colonoscopy?

You will be watched closely after the procedure until most of the effects of the sedatives have worn off. You might have some mild abdominal cramping or bloating because of the air that got into the colon during the exam. This should disappear quickly as you pass the air as gas. You will receive the results of the exam before you leave, however you will need to wait 1–2 weeks for the results of any biopsies that may have been performed. Our office will call you at your preferred phone number to give you the biopsy results. Since you were given a mild anesthetic during the procedure, your judgment and reflexes could be impaired for the rest of the day. You will be able to resume your usual diet after the procedure.

What are the possible risks with a colonoscopy?

As with any needed health procedure, risks may occur but are not common. Minor bleeding might occur at the site of biopsy or polypectomy. Bleeding can stop on its own or be controlled through the colonoscopy.

You might have a reaction to the sedatives.

Although complications after colonoscopy are uncommon, it’s important to recognize early signs of possible complications. Contact your doctor if you notice severe abdominal pain, fever and chills, or rectal bleeding after your procedure.

Also, let us know if you have had a colonoscopy before. It is very helpful to know when and where that procedure was performed.

Helpful ideas to improve the ease of scheduling.

Please have a handy list of your current medicines and allergies. Most medicines you are taking can be continued as usual, but some medicines can interfere with the preparation or the examination. It is very important that your health care team know what medicines you are taking, particularly aspirin products, arthritis medications, anticoagulants (blood thinners such as warfarin or heparin), clopidogrel (plavix), insulin or iron products.

Also, let us know if you have had a colonoscopy before. It is very helpful to know when and where that procedure was performed.

Be prepared to jot down notes as you want to be certain to remember all the information that will help you be prepared for your procedure.

You are not permitted to work or drive a vehicle on the day of your colonoscopy. You will need to have someone drive you home from your procedure. Please consider who may be able to drive you to and from the procedure. Thinking about your driver’s availability in advance will help you to schedule a date convenient for you. You may also need to consider the timing of your procedure based on your work schedule. Choosing the right day to schedule your colonoscopy will make it easier for you and your care team to get you safely and easily to your procedure day without delays or the need to reschedule and repeat the process.

How do I schedule a colonoscopy?

If you have a primary care provider, contact them to request a referral for a screening colonoscopy for your local WellSpan Digestive Health practice. Your primary care provider can also help you schedule a colonoscopy.

At the time of scheduling we will:

  • Speak with you to review your medical history
  • Explain how to prepare your colon for the procedure
  • Provide directions to the facility where your procedure will be performed
  • Share information relating to your insurance benefits (costs you may need to consider)
  • Provide the date of your procedure
  • Answer your questions

Prep Instructions