Colonoscopy and colon cancer screenings save lives
Colonoscopy and colon cancer screenings
Take charge of your colon health – get a colonoscopy
What is a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure in which your doctor will screen your rectum and colon for polyps or cancer. A long, flexible tube called a colonoscope contains a tiny video camera, allowing your doctor to see the inside of your colon.
During the procedure, your doctor will look for changes or abnormalities in your colon and rectum. They can also diagnose other conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, or remove any polyps before they can turn into cancer.
Tissue samples, or biopsies, can be taken during your colonoscopy to determine if any changes or abnormality your doctor finds are cancerous.
A colonoscopy is the best way to detect colon cancer early. This simple procedure typically takes less than an hour, and you’ll be able to return to your regular activities the next day.
What happens during a colonoscopy?
You’ll have the option of anesthesia during your procedure, or you can choose not to have it. If you don’t have anesthesia, it may shorten your procedure time by up to half, but the choice is yours.
If you do choose to have anesthesia, you’ll need to arrange for someone to drive you to and from your appointment.
If a polyp or polyps are discovered during your procedure, we’ll work with you to determine next steps. Our team can help manage even complex colon polyps, often without surgery.
If you do need surgery, our experienced team of colorectal surgeons will work with you to create your best treatment path for the best outcome.
Why do you need a colonoscopy?
Colon cancer and rectal cancer (commonly grouped together and called colorectal cancer) is the second most common type of cancer in the United States — but it’s one of the few cancers that can be prevented. Early colon cancer stages often have no symptoms, which is why getting a colonoscopy is so important.
The American Cancer Society recommends all men and women with an average risk of colorectal cancer begin regular screenings at age 45.
To fall into the “average risk” category for developing colon or colorectal cancer you:
- Do not need a personal history of colon polyps or colorectal cancer
- Do not need to have a family history of colon cancer
- Do not need a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
- Do not need to have a genetic predisposition to developing colon cancer, such as Lynch syndrome
If you are at a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer, you may need to begin screenings at an earlier age and get tested more frequently.
How to prepare for a colonoscopy
Despite what you may have heard, preparing for a colonoscopy isn’t as bad as it sounds. The day before your procedure, you’ll need to follow a liquid-only diet and use laxatives. Doing this helps properly empty your colon so your doctor can get a clearer view of your colon and rectum.
We offer a free mobile app called “Easy Prep: Colonoscopy,” which is designed to make preparing for your procedure a little easier. The app gives you:
- A personalized schedule with instructions
- Helpful hints and tips
- Shopping list of items you'll need for your clear liquid diet
- Foods and liquids to stay away from
We’re here to make preparing for your colonoscopy as easy as possible. Our team will answer your questions and walk you through the entire procedure.
What to expect after your colonoscopy
After your colonoscopy, it’s common to experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- Bloating and gas
- Blood in your stool with your first bowel movement
- Grogginess as your anesthesia wears off (if you choose to have it)
If polyps are removed during the procedure, you may be put on a special diet for a few days.
What does a colonoscopy look for?
A colonoscopy is used to identify a few conditions, including:
Colorectal cancer develops when normal, healthy cells in the colon or rectum begin to grow and function differently. These cancerous cells build up, forming a mass called a tumor, which exists as a lump inside the colorectal area. In some cases, these cancerous cells can travel to other parts of the body.
Because colon cancer doesn’t show any symptoms in the early stages, it’s important to have a colonoscopy to check for signs of colorectal cancer.
Additional colon cancer screenings
Colon cancer prevention and care at Geisinger
- The knowledge you need – Your care team is powered by gastroenterologists, surgeons, doctors and specialists with years of training and experience. Their expertise has been honed by treating many people with colorectal cancer and polyps every year. And their focus is on delivering the care best suited to your needs.
- Care designed for you, where you live – With locations throughout northeast, central and south-central Pennsylvania, our experienced team provides consultations and comprehensive care. We offer leading-edge treatment options and tailored-to-you care, backed by the expertise and innovation of a nationally recognized health system.
- Comprehensive specialty care – From chemotherapy, radiation and minimally invasive surgery options to national clinical trials and genetic testing, our colon cancer specialists are dedicated to offering innovative treatment options and personalized care in convenient locations, so you don’t have to travel far. We’ll work with you to develop a personalized care plan based on your individual needs.
- GI high-risk malignancy clinic – Our team of colorectal cancer specialists, which includes gastroenterologists, colorectal surgeons and genetic counselors, helps you get the best possible care. If you are at risk for developing colon cancer, we’ll help you learn about prevention. And if you’ve recently received a colorectal cancer diagnosis, we’re here to explain all your treatment options. Together, we’ll determine which tests or treatments are right for you and develop a personalized care plan.
- Leading-edge clinical trials – Our cancer research and clinical trials give you access to new treatments before they become widely available. Participating in a trial may help you get better even if standard approaches haven’t worked. Find a clinical trial.
- Genetic testing and counseling programs – Special research programs such as MyCode® are only available at Geisinger. Participating in MyCode allows you to contribute to genetic research. By participating, some may receive information about their own genetic risks. Learn about MyCode.