Colonoscopy is a video camera exam of the colon (large intestine). It is performed by a gastroenterologist with a thin fiberoptic video camera scope. Biopsies (tissue samples) can be taken. Approximately 90,000 people have a colonoscopy in the Chicago area each year.
Do you need a colonoscopy?
Yes, eventually – the question is when.
To check for colon cancer
Most people should have their first colonoscopy at age 50 to check for colon cancer, and to remove polyps (small growths) before they can turn into cancer. African-Americans should have their first colonoscopy at age 45. Patients who have a family history of colon cancer or advanced polyps may need one earlier.
Symptoms that may require colonoscopy
- anemia (low blood count)
- chronic diarrhea
- unexplained weight loss
- change in bowel habits
- inflammatory bowel disease
- a need to follow up prior diverticulitis
You will need a colonoscopy again every 10 years, or sooner if there’s a reason – for example, to follow an advanced polyp, you have a family history, inflammatory bowel disease, or new symptoms.
What is a colonoscopy like?
We’ll know your medical history in detail before the procedure. Let us know if you are diabetic or on blood thinners – we will need to plan.
You will take a bowel preparation (of laxatives) on the day before to clean out your colon. If you want extra credit, you can avoid high-fiber foods two days before. You won’t be able to eat or drink after midnight prior to the procedure. You’ll need someone to drive you to and from the procedure.
After meeting the team and giving your consent, you will be given sedation or anesthetics. You’ll lie on your side, and the scope will go completely around your colon and back (in rare cases, the scope cannot be passed all the way to the end).
You will go to the recovery area and the sedation will wear off – plan for at least 2 hours. We’ll go over the preliminary results with you. Biopsies are sent to a pathologist for detailed examination, and the results come back later. You will be able to eat again. Someone will need to drive you home. We will arrange a follow-up appointment or follow-up procedure as needed. We will send the detailed reports to your doctor.