Colonoscopy

What is the procedure?

Colonoscopy is a test that allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your large intestine (rectum and colon). He or she uses a thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope to look at the colon.

Why is the procedure used?

A colonoscopy helps find ulcers, colon polyps, tumors, and areas of inflammation or bleeding.

Who should have the procedure? When should the procedure be done?

Colon cancer screening should begin at age 50 for most people. If a colonoscopy doesn’t find adenomas or cancer and you don’t have risk factors, the next test should be in ten years. If one or two small, low-risk adenomas are removed, the exam should be repeated in five to ten years. Ask your doctor when and how often to have a colonoscopy if you have inflammatory bowel disease; a history of multiple, large, or high-risk adenomas; or a parent, sibling, or child who had colorectal cancer or adenomas. Routine checks usually aren’t needed after age 75.

What are the normal results or the procedure?

Normal findings are healthy intestinal tissues.

What are the implications of abnormal results?

  • Abnormal pouches on the lining of the intestines, called diverticulosis
  • Areas of bleeding
  • Cancer in the colon or rectum
  • Colitis (a swollen and inflamed intestine) due to Crohn disease, ulcerative colitis, infection, or lack of blood flow
  • Small growths called polyps on the lining of your colon (which can be removed through the colonoscope during the exam)