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Screening for polyps and signs of cancer in the large intestine

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. Fortunately, colon and rectal cancer is highly preventable, and early detection could save your life. A colonoscopy is the most accurate exam for colon and rectal cancer.

At Allina Health, you'll get compassionate and connected care from our team of expert gastroenterologists, general surgeons and caregivers before, during and after your colonoscopy.

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

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What is a colonoscopy?

Your health care provider uses colonoscopies to screen for colorectal cancer (colon and rectal cancer), precancerous growths (polyps) and other conditions in the large intestine.

Your provider can also use the procedure to diagnose causes for blood in your stool, unexplained weight loss and other conditions in the stomach and intestines.


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 (testing) options

Types of colonoscopies

There are two types of colonoscopies – diagnostic and preventive screening.

Our team can perform a preventive screening colonoscopy when you don’t have rectal or colon cancer symptoms.

We offer diagnostic colonoscopies as a follow-up test if stomach or intestinal issues, such as bleeding, abdominal pain or diarrhea, are present. 

Preparing for your colonoscopy

Before your colonoscopy:

  • You will receive directions about when and how to empty (cleanse) your colon. Follow these directions carefully.
  • You will need to use the bathroom often. Plan to stay near a bathroom during this time.
  • Plan to have someone drive you home from the procedure. You will have sedation and won’t be able to drive.

Use our Colonoscopy: What You Need To Know guide to help you prepare for your colonoscopy. Also available in Hmong, Russian, Somali and Spanish.

During your colonoscopy

You’ll take a light sedative medication through an intravenous (IV) line to help you relax.

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.

A colonoscopy takes about 30 minutes. Diagnostic biopsies and colonoscopies are not painful.

After your colonoscopy

You’ll stay at the hospital for about 30 minutes after the procedure as you recover from the sedation. Your after-visit summary will cover recovery and dietary instructions from your provider.

Side effects after a colonoscopy may include:

  • short-term discomfort (cramping and gas-like pain)
  • bloating, nausea (upset stomach)
  • vomiting (throwing up)
  • chills
  • abdominal (belly) pain
  • diarrhea (loose stools)
  • anus irritation.

Colonoscopy and biopsy results

You and your primary care provider can access colonoscopy results right away in your Allina Health Account. Your provider performs a biopsy to test a small tissue or cells from your body for cancer or another condition.

You will get results right after the procedure. Biopsy results should be ready in 10 to 14 days. 

Colonoscopy risks

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

While rare, some complications include:

  • having a negative reaction to the sedative
  • bleeding from where a tissue sample was taken or a polyp was removed — This affects about eight in 10,000 people
  • a torn (perforation) colon or rectum wall

              — This affects about four in 10,000 people.

  • missing a polyp or lesion hiding behind a fold or a bend in the colon.

Who performs a colonoscopy

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

Allina Health and MNGI Digestive Health

Your provider may refer you to Minnesota Gastroenterology Digestive Health (MNGI) for further consultation and specialized care. MNGI gastrointestinal helps with conditions that may not require treatment from a surgeon.

Allina Health surgeons perform screening colonoscopies, some diagnostic colonoscopies and specialize in conditions that may require surgery. 

Insurance coverage and cost

Most health insurance providers cover the cost of a screening colonoscopy.

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.

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?

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Reviewed by: Samy Maklad, MD

First published: 7/6/2020
Last reviewed: 1/17/2022