Symptoms

If you are experiencing digestive concerns, such as a change in bowel habits, blood loss or abdominal pain, a colonoscopy will allow your doctor to see if there is a specific reason for your discomfort, which can then guide a treatment strategy.

 

Screening

If you’re fortunate enough to have good digestive health, your time for a colonoscopy will come when you reach the age of 50 (earlier for high-risk individuals), when you begin your recommended screening for colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer occurs when a growth (polyp) on the lining of the colon or rectum has grown and becomes malignant or cancerous.

Digestive disorders affect many people. At some point, each of us has experienced sporadic and short-lived GI symptoms, such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating or heartburn. Or perhaps you or a loved one is coping with more serious complaints caused by a disease, such as Crohn’s or celiac sprue.

But, a stark reality is that colorectal cancer occurs all too common—in 5 percent of us—and usually has no symptoms.

Colonoscopy comprehension  

To live a healthy and happy life, it’s important to stay on top of any digestive concerns. Primary care providers depend upon gastroenterologists to help patients with GI complaints. Gastroenterologists specialize in treating disorders of the digestive tract and liver and can help you understand your symptoms and develop a plan to manage, and hopefully overcome, your ailment.

At some point, you are going to need a colonoscopy. During a colonoscopy, your gastroenterologist can examine your colon, or large intestine, from the inside to evaluate symptoms or screen for colon cancer.

Colonoscopy prevents colorectal cancer by removing pre-cancerous polyps. Screening colonoscopy of individuals without symptoms identifies those with asymptomatic and curable colon cancers (early detection). While there are several options for colorectal cancer screening, your doctor will likely recommend a colonoscopy due to its ability to examine the entire colon and not only detect any signs of cancer, but also remove any abnormal polyps at the same time and prevent colon cancer.

Educate yourself

Gastroenterologists are specialized in performing colonoscopies, but that doesn’t mean you should enter the procedure (or any procedure for that matter) blindly. By getting the right answers to the following four questions, you will be assured a high-quality colonoscopy and impress your physician that you are an educated partner in your health.

  • How often do you examine the entire colon and reach the cecum (beginning of the large intestine)? The most skilled doctors reach it more than 95 percent of the time.

  • How often are you unable to complete exams due to poor bowel prep? The answer should be: less than 15 percent of the time.

  • How often do you find pre-cancerous polyps during routine screenings? It’s common to find pre-cancerous polyps in about 25 percent of routine screenings.

  • When should I return for a follow-up exam? Most patients (75 percent) do not need another exam for 10 years. Patients who have had precancerous polyps removed or with other risk factors should be examined sooner, usually within three to five years.