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What is a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a test that allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your large intestine (rectum and colon). Your doctor will use a thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope to look at the colon. A colonoscopy helps find ulcers, colon polyps, tumors, and areas of inflammation or bleeding. During a colonoscopy, tissue samples can be collected (biopsy) and abnormal growths (i.e. polyps) can be taken out. A colonoscopy can also be used as a screening test to check for cancer or precancerous growths in the colon or rectum (polyps).
Colonoscopy is one of many tests that may be used to screen for colon cancer. Other tests include sigmoidoscopy, stool tests, and computed tomographic colonography. Which screening test you choose depends on your risk, your preference, and your doctor.
Why Do I Need One?
Colorectal cancer, in its early stages, isn’t blindly obvious, which is why regular checks are a must.
Current medical guidelines are that after the age of 50 a colonoscopy every 10 years is a must. If your screening test is abnormal, then your doctor may recommend more frequent screening. Someone with a family history of colon cancer or chronic inflammatory bowel conditions would be someone what would need more frequent screening and close monitoring.
Colon cancer is treatable if caught early! Small, precancerous growths called polyps, if found, can be safely removed and will prevent what would have been the development of a future cancer. This is because most polyps usually grow slowly and have not yet turned into cancer.
So if you’re over 50, go see your doctor and see what is the best way for you to get tested! If you’re under 50 but with any of the risk factors noted above, please speak to your doctor about it!