What is a Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a routine, cancer-prevention screening that uses a flexible hose with a camera attached to view your colon and large intestine. If the doctor sees a risky-looking polyp, it will be removed during the procedure and tested with a biopsy. Because the risk of colon cancer increases with age, most people begin getting colonoscopies at 50 years old.

For a great video that explains the procedure, from our partners at Emmi, click on Get Access and look for What is a Colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy Screenshot 370W

Why is it important to get a colonoscopy?

Dr. Adam Dachman explains, "The idea of a colonoscopy is not to just find cancer, but to actually prevent it from happening in the first place. Colon cancer nearly always starts as a benign problem called a 'polyp.' A colon polyp is a small, pimple sized growth in the lining of the colon. It is benign—not cancerous—but if left to grow in size over many years it can become a malignant tumor which can spread throughout the body and cause death."

What's Different about Colonoscopies at UHH? 

Having your colonoscopy at Upland Hills Health means a more comfortable experience during and after your procedure. The difference is both in our anesthesia process and in the experience our physicians bring to the procedure. 

Because we have a team of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) who are highly trained and skilled in airway management, we are able to use anesthesia procedures that allow you to sleep deeply during your procedure (with no chance of waking up during the colonoscopy) and wake up more refreshed, with little to no chance of nausea and no memory of the procedure. Our CRNAs monitor you during your surgery, adjusting your medication as needed to ensure your comfort during your procedure and your waking experience. Patients often wake up and ask if the procedure has begun yet!

Combined, Drs. Dachman, Ryberg and Hughes perform nearly 700 colonoscopies a year.

What happens next if a polyp is removed?

Colon polyps are very common. As we age, our likllihood of developing polyps increases. At age 60, one-third or more of people will have at least one polyp. Most polyps are benign, or non-cancerous.

If the doctor finds a polyp during your colonoscopy, he will remove it and send it for testing to see if it is cancerous. The results of that test come back within a week.

If you have a polyp removed during your colonoscopy, it won't affect what you can eat or what you can do. Just be sure to call your doctor if you experience any rectal bleeding.

Once the polyp test results come back to your doctor, he will analyze them and call you with the results. The next steps depend on whether your polyps are benign, precancerous, or cancerous, as well as your personal and family history.

  • If they’re benign, you likely won't need further treatment.
  • If they’re precancerous, there’s a good chance that colon cancer won't devleop because the polyp was removed.
  • If they’re cancerous, colon cancer IS treatable and your doctor will talk to you about a plan.

If you have polyps removed, your doctor will talk to you about a schedule for future colonoscopies. How soon you need to return for follow-up depends largely on the size of the polyps found in the first exam, and other factors, such as your personal medical history and that of your relatives.