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Colonoscopy: An Important Cancer Screening Test

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a procedure to view the inside of the rectum and colon, all of the large bowel and the lower part of the small intestine.

This routine exam is usually done as an outpatient procedure and is administered by a trained gastroenterologist using a colonoscope. A colonoscope is a long, thin, flexible tube with tiny camera and light on one end that relays information to a video monitor.

Why get a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a safe and effective way to monitor gastrointestinal (GI) health and to check for diseases of the colon.

Currently, a colonoscopy is the best defense against colorectal cancer as the most helpful tool in early detection.

A colonoscopy is also done to find irregularities in the intestines, to treat or remove polyps that may be present, or to further look for microscopic evidence of disease through a biopsy taken during the procedure or to treat GI issues.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., and is the third most common cancer in both men and women. Early detection through a colonoscopy could save your life.



Polyps image

Polyps are small growths on the inside wall of the rectum or colon that may become cancerous.


When should I get a colonoscopy?

It is recommended that anyone over the age of 50 have a colonoscopy. For anyone that has a family history of colon cancer, screenings should start earlier. Speak with your provider about when to start regular screenings if you have a family history of colon cancer.

You should also ask your healthcare provider about a colonoscopy if you've experienced any of the following:

  • Blood present in stool
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Prolonged rectal pain
  • Prolonged stomach pain
  • Inflamed colon as determined by a CT (computerized tomography) scan

How do I prepare for a colonoscopy?

Before a colonoscopy is administered, proper bowel preparation to thoroughly clear all stool is required. Your doctor will provide you with the needed preparation, which can be done at home prior to the colonoscopy.

What happens during and after a colonoscopy?

Before you undergo the exam you will be mildly sedated to ease anxiety or discomfort. Lying on your side, the gastroenterologist will insert the colonoscope into the rectum, moving it throughout the colon. If any abnormalities (polyps) are found, a biopsy (removing a small amount of tissue for later examination) may be taken. This is painless.

The exam takes less than an hour and is done as an outpatient procedure. Because of the sedation, patients will be unable to operate machinery or a motor vehicle for 8 hours after completion of the exam. Patients are required to have a responsible advocate on hand to assist in their departure.

After the colonoscopy, some patients may experience bloating. However, this quickly remedies itself and most patients are back to eating a regular diet and feeling normal within day's end.


Make an Appointment

Schedule your colorectal cancer screening by calling Central Maine Gastroenterology at Rumford at 784-5784.

Visit Central Maine Gastroenterology's practice page.

Additional Resources

To learn more about colorectal cancer, we urge you to visit these websites:

American Cancer Society



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention