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Colonoscopy

HomeColonoscopy

Colonoscopy

What is colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy is a procedure in which a doctor uses a colonoscope or scope, to look inside your rectum and colon. Colonoscopy can show irritated and swollen tissue, ulcers, polyps, and cancer .

How is virtual colonoscopy different from colonoscopy?

Virtual colonoscopy and colonoscopy are different in several ways:

  • Virtual colonoscopy is an x-ray test, takes less time, and you don’t need anesthesia .
  • With virtual colonoscopy, your doctor doesn’t view the entire length of your colon.
  • Virtual colonoscopy may not find certain polyps as easily as a colonoscopy can.
  • Doctors can’t remove polyps or treat certain other problems during a virtual colonoscopy.
  • Your health insurance coverage may be different for the two procedures.

Why do doctors use colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy can help a doctor find the cause of symptoms, such as

  • bleeding from your anus
  • changes in your bowel activity, such as diarrhea
  • pain in your abdomen
  • unexplained weight loss
Doctors also use colonoscopy as a screening tool for colon polyps and cancer . Screening is testing for diseases when you have no symptoms. Screening may find diseases at an early stage, when a doctor has a better chance of curing the disease.

Screening for Colon and Rectal Cancer

Your doctor will recommend screening for colon and rectal cancer —also called colorectal cancer—starting at age 50 if you don’t have health problems or risk factors that make you more likely to develop colon cancer.1 You have risk factors for colorectal cancer if you

  • are male
  • are African American
  • or someone in your family has had polyps or colorectal cancer
  • have a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
  • have Lynch syndrome , or another genetic disorder that increases the risk of colorectal cancer
  • have other factors, such as that you weigh too much or smoke cigarettes
If you are more likely to develop colorectal cancer, your doctor may recommend screening at a younger age, and more often.

If you are older than age 75, talk with your doctor about whether you should be screened. For more information, read the current colorectal cancer screening guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).

Government health insurance plans, such as Medicare, and private insurance plans sometimes change whether and how often they pay for cancer screening tests. Check with your insurance plan to find out how often your plan will cover a screening colonoscopy.

Screening for Colon and Rectal Cancer

To prepare for a colonoscopy, you will need to talk with your doctor, change your diet for a few days, clean out your bowel, and arrange for a ride home after the procedure.

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