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The best way to prevent colon cancer is to have a screening colonoscopy.  A colonoscopy allows your doctor to look at the colon and to remove any polyps that might turn into cancer. Colonoscopies can prevent cancer or stop it from developing. Talk with your doctor about whether a colonoscopy is the right screening test for you.

What is a Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a screening test that lets your doctor see the inner lining of the large intestine (colon). The screening is not painful and can take less than an hour to do. A colonoscopy is useful, because it helps your doctor diagnose a range of colon problems that include:

  • Tumors
  • Polyps (growth that can turn into cancer)
  • Ulcers
  • Inflammation
  • Bleeding

Should I Have a Colonoscopy?

Talk with your doctor about whether a colonoscopy is the best test for you. Regular screenings are recommended for men and women starting at age 45. But some people may need to get their screenings earlier. They include:

  • African Americans
  • People who have a close relative with cancer
  • Patients with IBD, or inflammatory bowel disease
  • People with certain genetic syndromes

Getting ready for a colonoscopy

Before the test, you will be expected to prep your colon. The prep enables your doctor to have a clear view of your colon. Your doctor will give you instructions. The test can involve having a clear liquid diet, and having laxatives or enemas. Make sure you go over the instructions and understand them.

Your doctor will view the colon

With a colonoscopy, a very thin tube with a tiny camera is used to view the colon. The test takes about a half-hour. If a polyp is found, your doctor likely will remove it. Your doctor also may take a biopsy of tissue that will be sent to a lab to be checked for cancerous or pre-cancerous cells.

People usually are given medicine to make them relaxed or sleepy during the procedure. Colonoscopies are not painful.

Want more information on colonoscopies? You can find colonoscopy information in the HealthWise Library.