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Colonoscopy procedure diagram

Understanding the colonoscopy procedure

A colonoscopy procedure is a short, relatively simple outpatient medical procedure that may help save your life. During a colonoscopy exam, a healthcare professional inspects the large intestine and colon to check for abnormal growths called polyps that can lead to colon cancer, as well as to diagnose other digestive problems. Fortunately, colon cancer can be preventable if the warning signs are caught early, and the best way to identify them is with a colonoscopy procedure.

Download a free guide on the colonoscopy procedure

Download a FREE guide for colonoscopy preparation

Whether you have already scheduled a colonoscopy procedure or are nervous about the exam, Colonoscopy For Dummies® will help ease your anxiety about this routine procedure. It's a free, easy-to-read guide that will help you plan for your colonoscopy exam.

What to expect for your colonoscopy

On the day before the procedure, you will begin a colonoscopy preparation to help make it easier for your doctor to examine the colon. This will require you to take a medicine and briefly change your diet. In the actual procedure, your doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube, called a colonoscope, into the rectum. The colonoscope allows the doctor to take pictures, inspect the lining of the colon walls for abnormalities, take tissue samples, and remove polyps. While this may sound like a scary or painful experience, you very likely will not remember your colonoscopy exam. That's because you will be given medication before the colonoscopy procedure. In fact, most people who have a colonoscopy experience no discomfort and say the procedure is no big deal.

Who should have a colonoscopy exam?

If you are 50 or older and have never been screened for colon cancer, you should schedule a colonoscopy procedure today. Fifty is the age when people are at the greatest risk for developing colon polyps, which can lead to colon cancer. A colonoscopy exam is a painless procedure, and it's one of the most accurate ways to detect polyps. When spotted during a colonoscopy, polyps can be removed, thus decreasing the risk of developing colon cancer.