Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. It generally has no symptoms in the early stages, and a colon screening is the only way to detect this cancer. If detected early, colon cancer is 90-95 percent treatable. The most effective prevention against colon cancer is knowledge, early detection and treatment.
Colonoscopy: It's Easier Than You Think
During a colonoscopy, a doctor uses a lighted, flexible scope with a tiny camera inside that can view the entire length of the colon. This allows the doctor to see any signs of trouble that may be developing. If polyps are discovered, they can be removed immediately with another tiny instrument inside the scope. The entire procedure usually takes less than half an hour. Patients are given a moderate sedative, and because of advances in technology, the procedure is generally painless.
Scheduling a Colonoscopy
Current guidelines suggest that you start colon cancer screenings at age 50, so talk to your doctor about when and how often you need a colonoscopy. Your primary care physician can refer you to a Reston Hospital specialist and schedule an appointment for you.
What to Expect
Before Your Colonoscopy
The day before your colonoscopy, you'll need to completely clean out your colon so the doctor will have an unobstructed view of its surface. Many people put off talking to their doctor about a colonoscopy because of concerns about the cleansing process. Doctors use several different types of preparation for cleansing the colon, and your doctor can help you decide which is best for you. It may be slightly uncomfortable, but all of these preparations are generally well tolerated. Talk with your doctor about all the options and be frank in your discussion about what will work best for you.
We suggest you eat light, easily digestible foods for several days prior to your colonoscopy.
After Your Colonoscopy
As soon as the sedation wears off, your physician will discuss your results with you. If any polyps were removed, they will be sent to the lab for a biopsy for evaluation, and the final results will be available in a few days. If colon cancer is detected, it's good to know that, when detected early, colon cancer is very curable.
Medicare and most insurance plans cover colon cancer screenings for people over 50.
Learn more about colonoscopy in our online Health Library.