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More Info: Colonoscopy

Important Facts About This Test

  • Colonoscopy has the highest level of accuracy for finding cancers and polyps.
  • If the results of this test are abnormal, you would not need to have another test. This is because polyps can be removed during the test.
  • The risk is very small but higher than the other screening test. Out of every 10,000 people who take this test, 10 will have a serious complication such as bleeding or tearing of the bowel (perforation). The risk of death is one person out of 10,000. The majority of complications occur when polyps are removed.
  • A colonoscopy needs to be done once every 10 years.
  • It is the most costly screening test. It is covered by Medicare and most insurers, but a co-payment or deductible may be required.

Getting Ready

  • You must follow a clear liquid diet the day before the test. 
  • You must drink 2 to 4 quarts of a mildly salty-tasting preparation the evening before the test.
  • You may also be asked to a laxative in pill form to help clean-out your colon.

During the Test

  • The test is done in a hospital or specialized medical center.
  • You are given medicine before the test to help your relax and make you sleepy.
  • A thin tube is inserted into the colon. A tiny camera at the end of the tube allows the doctor to look for polyps and cancer.
  • If polyps are found, they can be removed.
  • You may experience some temporary pressure or cramping but little pain due to the medications that are given beforehand.
  • The test itself takes 15 to 60 minutes to complete but the entire process may require 2-3 hours.

After the Test 

  • You spend time resting as the medicine wears off.
  • Someone will need to take you home (because you won't be able to drive).
  • You need to restrict your activities for the rest of the day.
  • The test may cause some temporary bloating afterward.

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