Knowing Is Always Better
Colonoscopies save lives — 90% of colon cancer deaths can be prevented by this procedure. Colon cancer screening is important for anyone age 45 or older or those with a family history of colon cancer. Several colorectal screening options are available, but none are as effective as a colonoscopy. Knowing is better. The whole point of cancer screening is to know with as high a degree of certainty as possible whether cancerous or precancerous conditions are present. A colonoscopy doesn’t just find the problem — it treats the problem and removes it at the same time.
What Is a Colonoscopy?
During a colonoscopy, your doctor examines your colon lining looking for polyps or other abnormalities via a small, high-definition camera attached to a thin, flexible tube. The procedure usually takes about half an hour. Any precancerous polyps found during your colonoscopy will be immediately removed and sent to the lab for biopsy. With sedation, you’ll probably not be aware of anything that happens during the procedure. Colonoscopies are the only kind of test that examines the entire colon and the only test that can remove precancerous polyps.
Before your colonoscopy, you may be placed on dietary restrictions the day before the procedure and bowel prep the evening before. You will be restricted to a clear liquid diet prior to your exam, and you’ll need to drink a laxative preparation designed to clear your colon before your test. However, this is a necessary step to make sure the physician can clearly see all portions of your colon without obstruction.
Preparing for Your Colonoscopy
SUTAB® Clear Liquid Bowel Prep
Bowel prep options like the SUTAB® Clear Liquid Bowel Prep are much more pleasant than other prep options and easier to tolerate than in the past. Patients state the tablets are easy to swallow and make this bowel prep more tolerable. It features swallowing 12 SUTAB® tablets — each with a sip of water, followed by drinking a quantity of water as outlined in detailed bowel prep, starting at 6 pm night before. This is then repeated at 6 a.m. the morning of your colonoscopy. The entire SUTAB® Clear Liquid Bowel Prep is detailed in a one-page document.
A virtual colonoscopy utilizes a CT scan of the colon and rectum. During this procedure, the colon is filled with air via a catheter inserted in the rectum. This provides a clearer view so the scan can produce cross-sectional images of the colon and rectum. A doctor will examine these images to look for abnormalities or irregularities. This procedure usually lasts only about 10 to 15 minutes and is less invasive than a colonoscopy. It does not require sedation.
In addition to radiation exposure from the CT machine, a virtual colonoscopy requires the most difficult part of preparing for a real colonoscopy because it involves the same dietary changes and bowel prep as a full colonoscopy. However, it may not detect smaller polyps and cancer, so you cannot know for sure your colon is clear. When polyps are found by this procedure, they cannot be removed during this exam, so at that point an actual colonoscopy will need to be performed.
Fecal Immunochemical Test
The fecal immunochemical test (FIT) is a simple lab test that examines stool samples for traces of blood. You can complete the stool collection in the privacy of your own home using a kit provided by your doctor’s office. Dietary restrictions or bowel prep are not necessary for the procedure. Many people enjoy the convenience of the FIT because it does not require sedation or an appointment at a medical facility. However, themay fail to detect polyps and cancers. It may detect pre-cancerous cells, but if blood is found in the stool, further testing may be required to determine the source.
A flexible sigmoidoscopy and a colonoscopy are quite similar. The main difference is a flexible sigmoidoscopy only examines the lower part of the colon, or the sigmoid colon. The procedure involves inserting a flexible tube with a camera into the rectum so the colon lining can be viewed. If abnormalities are detected, tissue samples can be collected for biopsy. You will likely not require sedation, and the bowel prep may be easier to tolerate. The main disadvantage of flexible sigmoidoscopy is it’s less thorough than a colonoscopy — only the lower part of the colon is examined, so abnormalities in the upper section of the colon will go undetected.
Cologuard is an at-home, prescription-only stool test that screens for DNA mutations and red blood cells that may indicate colon cancer. The test is not approved for those who are classified as high-risk. This test does not require any dietary restrictions, bowel prep or invasive examinations. As with the FIT, the collection takes place in the privacy of your own home. Patients who test positive on a Cologuard test will need to follow up with a colonoscopy according to the manufacturer. If a colonoscopy is needed, it will be treated as a non-screening (diagnostic) test and may not be fully covered by some insurance plans.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will I be awake during a Colonoscopy?
No. We use anesthesia for all colonoscopy procedures, which ensures you will be asleep for the entire time. This process also helps you wake up faster. You will be able to eat sooner after the procedure and will be less likely to have post-procedure drowsiness, nausea, or vomiting that can occur with other medications.
How do I prepare for a colonoscopy?
You will receive specific instructions including fasting and drinking a special prep solution. Some improvements to the solution have been made in recent years. Talk to us if you have specific concerns.
What if I’m afraid of a colonoscopy?
Many people are nervous about the procedure beforehand but are pleasantly surprised to find it’s not difficult or painful. Don’t let fear keep you from having this life-saving screening. Talk to us during your consultation about any anxiety you might have. Learning more about the process will likely help secure your peace of mind.
Will my insurance cover this procedure?
We accept many forms of insurance and offer a cash-pay option for patients who don’t have insurance or would prefer to pay for their procedure directly. For more information on cash/self-pay pricing, contact our office. As a reminder, if choosing cash/self-pay, payment is due at the time of the procedure. For your convenience, we accept cash, check, Visa, and Mastercard.
Are there insurance reasons to choose a colonoscopy over another test?
Depending on your insurance, there could be. If a lesser test determines a need for a colonoscopy to confirm or treat polyps or cancer, the colonoscopy cost may be reimbursed at a lower rate as it may then be classified as diagnostic rather than a screening procedure. All first-time screening colonoscopies are by law covered 100%.
What is the right option?
When you consider the options, the advantages of a colonoscopy are clear. It is the only test that examines the entire colon and can both detect and remove precancerous polyps during the procedure. No other follow-up procedure will be required — the colonoscopy provides the final answer.
Talk to Us
The colonoscopy information provided here is for general purposes only. It is not a substitute for individual medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your physician. All procedures carry the potential risk of complications. Your healthcare provider will give you specific details about your individual situation. Contact us or call (309) 495-1144 for colonoscopy information specific to your case.