A colon screening—known as colonoscopy—is the single most effective early detection system for colon cancer. The second leading cause of cancer death in the United States, colon cancer generally has no symptoms in early stages. If detected early by a colonoscopy, colon cancer is 90-95 percent curable. The most effective prevention against colon cancer is knowledge, early detection and treatment.
Colonoscopy—It's Easier Than You Think
During a colonoscopy, a doctor uses a lighted, flexible scope with a tiny camera inside to view the entire length of the colon and see any signs of trouble that may be developing. If polyps are discovered, they can be removed immediately with another tiny instrument inside the scope. You're given a moderate sedative, and the entire procedure usually takes less than half an hour.
Advanced technology available at Portsmouth Regional Hospital allows us to perform some colon screening procedures as virtual colonoscopies using computed tomography.
Scheduling a Colonoscopy
Current guidelines suggest starting your colon cancer screenings at age 50, so talk to your doctor about when and how often you need a colonoscopy. Your primary care physician can refer you to a Portsmouth Regional Hospital specialist and schedule an appointment for you.
What to Expect
Before Your Colonoscopy
The day before your colonoscopy, you'll need to clean out your colon completely so the doctor will have an unobstructed view of its surface. Many people put off talking to their doctor about a colonoscopy because of concerns about the cleansing process. Doctors use several different types of preparation for cleansing the colon, and your doctor can help you decide which is best for you. It may be slightly uncomfortable, but all of these preparations are generally well tolerated. Talk with your doctor about all the options and be frank in your discussion about what will work best for you.
We suggest you eat light, easily digestible foods for several days before your colonoscopy.
After Your Colonoscopy
As soon as the sedation wears off, your physician will discuss your results with you. If any polyps were removed, they will be sent to the lab for a biopsy and evaluation. Results will be available in a few days. If colon cancer is detected, remember that colon cancer found early is very curable.
Medicare and most insurance plans cover colon cancer screenings for people over 50.
Learn more about colonoscopy in our online Health Library.