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Colonoscopy

Procedure to screen for abnormalities in the large intestine

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. Fortunately, colon cancer is highly preventable and early detection could save your life. A colonoscopy is the test least likely to miss cancer.

At Allina Health, you'll get seamless, expert care from our team of gastroenterologists, general surgeons and caregivers before, during and after your colonoscopy. You and your primary care provider can access colonoscopy results immediately in your Allina Health Account.

Find a colonoscopy location near you and schedule your colon cancer screening today.

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What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy screens for colon and rectal cancer, precancerous growths (polyps) or other conditions affecting the large intestine. The procedure can also diagnose causes for blood in your stool, unexplained weight loss and other gastrointestinal conditions.

There are two types of colonoscopies – diagnostic and preventative screening. A preventative screening colonoscopy is used when you don’t have colon or colorectal cancer symptoms. Our team performs diagnostic colonoscopies when symptoms or abnormalities are present. 

When to get a colonoscopy

Get a colonoscopy at age 45 and every 10 years after. Talk with your health care provider if you think you are at an increased risk for colorectal cancer.  

Your health care provider may recommend other screening options. 

Preparing for your colonoscopy

Make arrangements to ensure you have time and privacy to prepare for your procedure. You’ll take laxatives the night before and the morning of your procedure to clean (empty) your colon, making it easier for your provider to detect any abnormalities.

If your colon isn’t completely clean, you may need to repeat the procedure.

Your provider will share a list of dietary restrictions to follow before and after your colon exam.

Use our Colonoscopy: What You Need To Know guide to help you prepare for your colonoscopy.

During your colonoscopy

You’ll change into a hospital gown and lie on your left side during the procedure. Before your colonoscopy, sedative medication (short-acting anesthesia) will be used to keep you comfortable and may cause you to sleep. You can choose to stay awake during your colonoscopy.

A long, narrow flexible tube (a “scope”) with a tiny camera is gently inserted into the rectum to see the entire colon. Air is carefully pumped into the colon, giving your provider the best possible view of the colon lining.

You’ll receive sedating medication before your procedure starts. A colonoscopy takes approximately 30 minutes.

If your health care provider finds abnormal tissue such as a colon polyp, they will recommend a diagnostic colonoscopy. A diagnostic colonoscopy gets a tissue sample from the colon to examine (biopsy). It removes small tissues through a scope (polypectomy). Diagnostic biopsies and colonoscopies are not painful.

After your colonoscopy

You’ll be monitored for approximately 30 minutes after the procedure as you recover from the sedation. You’ll receive recovery and dietary instructions from your provider. Your designated driver will drive you home.

Arrange to have someone drive you home after your colonoscopy. To ensure your safety after the procedure, you can’t drive or take public transportation alone because the anesthesia impairs your judgment and reflexes. 

Side effects after a colonoscopy may include:

  • bloating, nausea (upset stomach)
  • vomiting (throwing up)
  • chills
  • abdominal (belly) pain
  • diarrhea (loose stools)
  • anus irritation

Colonoscopy and biopsy results

Your provider will share colonoscopy results with you shortly after the exam.

If we perform a biopsy, we’ll send your tissue sample to the lab for testing. Once colonoscopy or biopsy results are confirmed, you may receive a written letter, a phone call and an email notification to view results in your Allina Health account.

Colonoscopy risks

The possibility of developing colon or colorectal cancer outweigh your chances of colonoscopy complications.

While rare, some complications include:

  • a negative reaction to anesthesia
  • bleeding
  • a torn colon wall (perforation) from the scope or removing colon polyps
  • infection
  • severe abdominal pain
  • feverish symptoms

The risk of complications may increase as you age. While a colonoscopy is your best screening option for detecting and preventing colon and colorectal cancer, the procedure isn’t 100 percent effective and may not always catch all abnormalities. Contact your health care provider if you experience severe or prolonged symptoms.

Who performs a colonoscopy

A gastroenterologist or general surgeon recommended by your primary care provider will perform your colonoscopy.

Insurance coverage and cost

Most health insurance providers cover the cost of a colonoscopy.

Ask your health insurance provider:

  • How much will my plan pay?
  • Do I have preventive or screening care benefits? Do they cover the cost of a colonoscopy? How much do I need to pay?
  • If I have a colonoscopy and there are extra facility charges, will those be covered? If not, what will I have to pay?
  • If I have a biopsy and lab charges from a colonoscopy, are they covered under my preventive benefits?
  • If I have a positive FIT or FIT-DNA test and need a colonoscopy, will that be covered under my screening or preventive benefit? If not, how much will I have to pay?

Talk with your insurance provider about medical coverage and get a price estimate before scheduling a colonoscopy.

Medicare covers colonoscopies every 24 months if you’re at high risk for colon or colorectal cancer and every 120 months if you’re not at high risk.

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