Colon and Rectal Surgeons
of Kansas City

What is a Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a routine, safe, and effective procedure used to visually examine the full lining of the colon and rectum. This procedure is the best way to view the entire colon to see if there are any problems. Most colonoscopies are done on an outpatient basis with minimal inconvenience and discomfort.

A colonoscopy may be recommended for several reasons, such as blood in the stool, frequent abdominal pain, change in bowel habits, or you're older than 50 years. In addition to diagnosing gastrointestinal problems, colonoscopies are also the best way to screen for colon (or colorectal) cancer.

People older than 50 years should undergo a colonoscopy every 10 years. If you have additional risk factors, healthcare providers could recommend the procedure be completed more frequently.

What happens during a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy involves the use of a colonoscope—a long, thin, flexible instrument connected to a camera and video display monitor.

The colonoscope is inserted into the rectum and moved through the entire colon. If the healthcare provider notices anything of concern during your colonoscopy, a biopsy (removing a small amount of tissue to examine) may be performed.

A colonoscopy makes it possible to find and remove abnormal tissue growths without surgery. An abnormal tissue growth is called a polyp (pronounced pahl-ip). A colonoscopy is more accurate than all other methods to detect polyps and early cancer. The ability to remove polyps during a colonoscopy is a major step toward the prevention of colon cancer.

The entire colonoscopy procedure usually takes less than an hour. Mild sedation is typically provided to relieve anxiety and discomfort. For this reason, you will be required to have someone drive you home after the procedure. Following the colonoscopy, you may experience bloating, which will quickly improve. Most patients can resume eating a regular diet later that day.

People older than 50 years should undergo a colonoscopy every 10 years. If you have additional risk factors, healthcare providers could recommend the procedure be completed more frequently.

Before a colonoscopy can be done, the bowel must first be thoroughly cleared of all stool—this process is called a colonoscopy preparation or colon prep for short. This is completed prior to the exam, as prescribed by your healthcare provider.

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