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Preventing colon cancer and maintaining bowel health

A colonoscopy is one of the most comprehensive procedures for evaluating the condition of your colon. Using a colonoscope (a device with a camera and a long, thin tube) your colon and rectum can be checked for anything that shouldn’t be there. Colonoscopy is used to look for early signs of colon cancer, the cause of changes in bowel habits, and to evaluate symptoms such as abdominal pain, rectal bleeding or weight loss.

What to Expect During a Colonoscopy
You will need to start preparing for a colonoscopy up to two weeks before the procedure. This is to ensure that your bowel will be empty for the exam. You will be given you detailed instructions on how to prepare.

What to expect on the day of your colonoscopy:

  • A hospital gown will be provided for you to wear
  • You will be asked to lie on your left side and curl your knees towards your chest
  • An IV will be inserted into your vein to provide you with a sedative and pain reliever (this helps most people fall asleep during the procedure)
  • A small amount of air will be used to expand your colon
  • The colonoscope will be inserted and weaved through your lower intestine (you may experience light cramping while this is happening)
  • The colonoscope will be removed and the doctor will start analyzing the results

Colonoscopies typically last between 30 minutes to an hour. You will be contacted 2 to 3 weeks after the exam to with the results.

When to Get a Colonoscopy
The American Cancer Society recommends people receive their first colonoscopy at age 45 to screen for colorectal cancer. After this, screenings should be performed once every ten years depending on your medical history and risk factors.

For select high risk individuals, colon cancer screening can begin even sooner than age 45. This includes individuals with a family history of colon cancer and those who have been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease. To inquire about your risk level, talk to your primary care provider.

Screening should continue through age 75, as long as a person remains in good overall health. After age 75, the decision to continue colon cancer screening is left to the discretion of the individual and his or her primary care provider.

This service does not require a referral. To see if your insurance company requires one, call the number on your card.

To establish care with a St. Luke's primary care provider, call 218.249.4000 or find a clinic near you.