This procedure uses a colonoscope, a flexible tube-like device outfitted with a miniaturized camera, to take pictures of the colon. The colonoscope allows a physician to obtain a small tissue sample, apply medications or heat treatment directly to the lining of the colon, or remove polyps. Polyps are abnormal growths in the lining of the colon, which can become cancerous. Removing polyps is an important way to prevent colon cancer. A colonoscopy takes from 10 to 30 minutes. During the procedure, patients may feel some discomfort but rarely any pain. Patients receive medication intravenously to make them relaxed and drowsy. The span of service in the Endoscopy Center may last two to three hours, from admission through discharge.
Colonoscopy is a safe, simple and effective way to check for cancer, and to treat suspicious colon polyps. Screening is important because in the early stages of many colorectal diseases symptoms are not present. Cancer growth can go on for years and even decades within the colon, and is far more difficult to treat when symptoms do become present. The American Cancer Society recommends all men and women age 50 and older have a screening colonoscopy to check for signs of colon cancer, even if no symptoms are present. People with a family history of colon cancer should begin screening at an earlier age.