What is a Colonoscopy?
Detection and treatment in one test.
What you need to know
A colonoscopy is a test that allows your doctor to look inside your colon for any issues like polyps, which can turn into cancer. A colonoscopy can stop cancer, because during the procedure, your doctor can both see and remove polyps.
The way the test is done varies, but generally it is an outpatient procedure and you’ll go home that day. Depending on what kind of anesthesia is used, you might be fully asleep during the procedure.
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When to have your first colonoscopy
Most people should get their first screening at age 50, but there are exceptions.
- African-Americans: Should start colon cancer screening at 45.
- Family history: If you have a blood relative who has had colorectal, ovarian or uterine cancer, or has had colon polyps, screening should start at age 40 or 10 years before your relative was diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer, whichever comes first.
- Talk to your doctor if you have risk factors including inflammatory bowel diseases, Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, or a history of colorectal polyps.
Additional testing options
A colonoscopy is your best way to reduce the risk of colon cancer, but there are several other tests, including a take-home option, that your provider may offer.
Colorectal cancer: Introduction
National Cancer Institute: Colorectal screening factsheet
What happens during a colonoscopy?