What is a colonoscopy and when should you have one?

Posted by Sabina Khan, MD, Gastroenterology, Ridgeview Specialty Clinic on Feb 26, 2018 11:10:10 AM

According to the American Cancer Society - colon cancer is one of the five most common types of cancer, but thanks in large part to increased awareness about the importance of colonoscopy - the death rate from colorectal cancer has been steadily declining.

When should you get a colonoscopy? The key is early detection and removal of polyps that could turn into cancer.  In the second article of Ridgeview’s series about colon cancer, we get right to the bottom line: if you’re an adult of a certain age, colon screening could save your life. It’s that simple. When you should have a colonoscopy, and how often, depends on your risk level.

What is colon screening?

The two most common types of screening are colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy. Both use a small, flexible scope that is a tube about the size of a finger with a tiny camera attached to the end so the doctor can watch progress on a monitor. A colonoscope is long enough for the doctor to examine your entire large intestine, whereas a sigmoidoscope is shorter, enabling the doctor to examine your rectum and the lower part of your colon.

The scope is capable of removing polyps, if any are found, and can also take tissue samples. A colonoscopy takes about a half-hour; a sigmoidoscopy about 10 to 20 minutes. You should talk with your doctor about which procedure is recommended for you.

When should you get a colonoscopy?

Because polyps are usually found in older persons, adults should be screened beginning at age 50. After that, the American Cancer Society recommends you have another colonoscopy every 10 years. Flexible sigmoidoscopy should be repeated every five years.

If you have specific risk factors for colon cancer, your doctor will probably recommend that you begin screening exams earlier and perhaps continue to be screened more often. High-risk factors include:

  • African-American heritage.
  • Family history of colon cancer or polyps.
  • Family history of hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome - familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (HNPCC).
  • Personal history of colorectal cancer, adenomatous polyps or inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

Typically, colon cancer has no symptoms. Screening is the only way to detect anomalies, including finding and removing polyps before they become cancerous. So if you are 50 years or older, it’s time to talk with your health care provider about scheduling a colonoscopy. 

Ridgeview offers colonoscopy screening in Chaska at Two Twelve Medical Center, in Waconia at Ridgeview Professional Building, in Arlington at Ridgeview Sibley Medical Center and in Le Sueur at Ridgeview Le Sueur Medical Center. To schedule a colonoscopy at a Ridgeview location close to you, click on the image below and complete and submit the form or call 952-442-8011.

Colon Screening

Ridgeview Medical Center is an independent, nonprofit, regional health care system located just 35 minutes west of Minneapolis on Highway 5. Its network includes two hospitals—located in Waconia and Arlington—a multitude of primary and specialty care clinics (including OB/GYN clinics in Chaska and Chanhassen), emergency services and specialty programs, and Two Twelve Medical Center in Chaska—a free-standing 24/7 emergency and urgent care facility with multi-specialty clinics and services.   

Topics: Wellness, Colon Cancer

Medical and health information presented here is intended to be general in nature, and should not be viewed as a substitute for professional advice. Please consult with a health care professional for all matters relating to personal medical and health care issues. In case of an emergency, please call 911. 

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