BHealthy Blog

5 Common Questions About Colonoscopies

By Dr. Jason Mizell, colorectal surgeon at Baptist Health Surgical Clinic Of Central Arkansas

A colonoscopy is the best screening tool to examine inside the colon and rectum. A gastroenterologist typically performs this type of screening, which helps to detect colorectal cancer and other gastrointestinal conditions. Dr. Jason Mizell with Baptist Health Surgical Clinic Of Central Arkansas shares some advice and when you should see a specialist.

When should someone get a colonoscopy?

If you’re not experiencing any symptoms, the recommendation for getting a colonoscopy is generally at age 45. Before, it was recommended to start getting a colonoscopy at age 50. But the guidelines now suggest an earlier screening age because there has been an increase of young people diagnosed with colon cancer.

What are polyps and why is it important to remove them?

About 30 to 40% of the population will have polyps to some extent. A polyp is an abnormal growth of tissue from a mucous membrane. They can occur in various parts of the body, including the colon. Polyps are typically symptomless when they are small, but they can develop into cancer as they grow. The older we get, the more likely we are to get polyps. Regardless of age, they can be removed. The procedure is quick, easy and painless.

What are some warning signs for polyps?

Colon polyps are often asymptomatic. Some of the warning signs of colon polyps are the following:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Increasing abdominal pain 
  • Blood in stool
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Increase in nausea or vomiting

Regular screenings are essential in identifying and managing colon polyps.

What would I need to do if any symptoms appear?

The first thing to do is talk to your primary care doctor. You can also call a gastroenterology office or colorectal surgeon and let them know your symptoms.

Find a Baptist Health provider near you or call 1-888-BAPTIST for more information.

Steps for Prepping for a Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy is the gold standard for colorectal cancer screening. In a colonoscopy, a flexible, lighted tube is inserted in the colon and the entire colon is visually examined. It is both a diagnostic and therapeutic test, meaning if a polyp is found it can be removed at that time. This test does require a bowel prep, and is safe and comfortable with the use of sedation. 

Here are the steps you will need to follow in preparation for a successful colonoscopy:

  • Dietary restrictions: Starting three days before the procedure, you should only consume low-fiber foods. The day before the colonoscopy, you will need to switch to a clear liquid diet. 
  • Bowel prep solution: You will be required to take a laxative drink on the evening prior to the procedure to clean out your colon. These steps are necessary to ensure that the colonoscopy is successful. 
  • Hydration: It is recommended to drink 8 glasses of water a day before your colonoscopy.

What Are Other Alternatives to a Colonoscopy?

In addition to colonoscopies there are a few alternative methods that you can consider:

  • Virtual Colonoscopy (CT colonography): Is a test where contrast is injected in the colon and images are taken of the inside of the colon and act as a ‘virtual colonoscopy.’ This screening doesn’t require sedation but it requires the same preparation process as a colonoscopy.
  • Air Contrast Barium Enema Radiography: In this procedure, contrast is instilled in the colon and x-rays are taken as a way to look for potential polyps. No sedation is used during this screening, and like a colonoscopy, bowel prep is required. If a polyp is found, the patient will need to be referred for a colonoscopy.
  • Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT): FIT is a test that is used to detect blood in the stool. If results are positive, scheduling a colonoscopy is necessary. Cologuard is a test that involves taking a stool sample at home and sending it off to a lab for testing. This test requires a prescription from a physician and is covered by Medicare and most insurance companies. If you have any questions or concerns, please ask your Baptist Health provider.

Learn more about Digestive Health and Alternative Colon Screening Methods.