A thorough and accurate cancer diagnosis is the first step in developing a colorectal cancer treatment plan. During your initial consultation at our hospital, we will perform a complete array of diagnostic tests, thoroughly review your medical records and complete a physical exam. This information helps us formulate treatment recommendations that are tailored to you and your needs. Our gastroenterologists may perform a colonoscopy to examine the large intestine (or large bowel) for signs of colorectal cancer and, if cancer is found, to determine its stage.
During a colonoscopy, a colonoscope (a long, flexible, lighted tube about 48 inches to 72 inches long) is inserted into the rectum. Attached to the device is a small video camera that takes images or video of the large intestine (colon). The colonoscope may also be used to examine the whole colon and the lower small intestine.
The internal lining of the colon is inspected for polyps, ulcers or other abnormalities. If polyps exist, they may be removed during the same procedure via a polypectomy. In addition to detecting cancer, a colonoscopy helps our oncologists evaluate the potential cause of certain symptoms, such as abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, constipation, diarrhea or a change in bowel habits. We may also use this procedure to perform a biopsy, which involves collecting samples of tissues or cells for further analysis.
To improve the accuracy of colonoscopy procedure results, the colon must be as clear as possible. Patients are given detailed instructions on how to prepare for the procedure by drinking a large amount of cleansing solution or following a clear-liquid diet for several days. Laxatives or enemas may also be prescribed prior to the examination.
A colonoscopy itself typically takes 15 to 60 minutes, though patients should expect to remain onsite for two to three hours, to make time for preparation and recovery. Patients are often sedated during the procedure to help them relax and tolerate discomfort. They may experience pressure, bloating or cramping, but rarely do patients experience pain.
Your doctor will explain the results of the colonoscopy after it is complete. If biopsy samples were taken, they will be sent to a pathologist for testing. Those results will be available and explained to you as soon as they are ready.
Learn more about colorectal cancer diagnostics