Once you turn 45, your physician will recommend a colonoscopy if you haven’t already had one. You’ll have questions. Atrium Health has answers from an expert.

Your Health | 13 days ago

7 Common Questions About Colonoscopies

Once you turn 45, your physician will recommend a colonoscopy if you haven’t already had one. You’ll have questions. We have answers from an expert. 

Nicholas Anthony, MD, a gastroenterologist at Atrium Health’s Carolinas HealthCare System Digestive Health, answers 7 of the most common questions he’s asked about colonoscopies.  

Nicholas Anthony, MD, a gastroenterologist at Atrium Health’s Carolinas HealthCare System Digestive Health, answers 7 of the most common questions he’s asked about colonoscopies.

1) How can colonoscopies help prevent colon cancer?

A colonoscopy serves two purposes: To catch colon cancer early when it’s easiest to treat, and to remove pre-cancerous polyps that would eventually become colon cancer.

2) How long will it take? Will I be asleep?

Generally, a colonoscopy takes about 30 minutes to complete. If deep sedation (propofol) is used, then you will sleep through the entire procedure. Some patients may be in a “twilight” sleep, putting them in a very relaxed and comfortable state.

3) Will I have to miss several days of work?

At most, you’ll have to clear your schedule for a day or so: the night before the procedure for the prep and the day of the colonoscopy, as you’re likely to feel groggy afterwards. If you’re worried about missing work, we do offer some Saturday appointments.

4) If you find polyps, are they always removed?

Polyps come in different shapes and sizes. The most common pre-cancerous type of polyp is called an adenoma. Generally, these are removed during the procedure and based on the size and microscopic features, routine colonoscopy screenings are usually recommended. Benign polyps also can be found; these do not put you at increased risk for colon cancer.

5) What are some early warning signs of colon cancer?

Most people with colon cancer have NO early signs or symptoms, which is why it’s so important to be screened. When cancer is caught in its earliest stages, treatments are often more successful, and the likelihood of survival is far greater. In some cases, patients do experience symptoms of colon cancer, which may include abdominal pain, changes in bowel habit, blood in stool (either red or tar-like), anemia and weight loss.

6) If I have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, how often should I be screened?

It’s generally recommended you have a colonoscopy screening 8 years after you were first diagnosed. The screening recommendations differ for each patient, so it’s important to speak with your doctor about this.

7) When should I start getting colonoscopy screenings?

In 2018, the American Cancer Society updated its screening guidelines to recommend starting colonoscopies at age 45 as opposed to 50. Newer data has shown that colon and rectal cancers have increased by 51 percent among adults under the age of 50 since 1994.

This has led to increased awareness for early screening – specifically if there are any symptoms or blood in stool, unintentional weight loss, change in bowel habits or underlying anemia.

To learn more about colonoscopies, if you’re at risk for colon cancer and more, visit AtriumHealth.org/DigestiveHealth.

If you’d like to schedule a colonoscopy with Atrium Health, call 704-512-6161.