A colonoscopy is an internal examination of the colon (large intestine) and rectum, using a thin, flexible tube with a camera called a colonoscope. The doctor uses a video monitor to look for abnormalities such as ulcers, polyps, tumors, or areas of inflammation or bleeding. If any irregularities are found, they can be biopsied or removed.
This outpatient exam is often used to screen for colon cancer or to evaluate symptoms such as abdominal pain, change in bowel habits or unexplained weight loss, among other symptoms. It can be completed in less than an hour and is performed under mild sedation to relieve any discomfort.
Colonoscopy can also be used to treat certain diseases, including removal of polyps, widening narrowed areas or blockages, or addressing bleeding from diverticula or lesions. Specialized procedures, such as laser surgery or cauterizing techniques, may also be performed during a colonoscopy.
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Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of death from cancer. Colorectal cancer affects all racial and ethnic groups and is most often found in people ages 50 and older.
The best way to prevent colorectal cancer is to get screened regularly starting at age 50. There are often no signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer – that’s why it’s so important to get screened.
People over age 50 have the highest risk of colorectal cancer. You may also be at higher risk if you are African American, smoke, or have a family history of colorectal cancer.
Everyone can take these healthy steps to help prevent colorectal cancer: