Is It Time for a Colonoscopy? Your Columbia Gastroenterologists Weigh In

Did you know that colorectal cancer ranks as the third most frequently diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of death in the United States? Thankfully, colonoscopy stands tall as the only tool that makes detecting colon cancer possible, making it one of the few cancers we can prevent.

At Consultants in Gastroenterology, we offer non-invasive colonoscopy procedures in Lexington, West Columbia, Columbia, and Chapin, SC to catch polyps early before they become cancerous. We diagnose and treat various digestive system conditions like colorectal cancer, and we can help you understand when to get a colonoscopy and what to expect from a colonoscopy procedure. To that end, we have created this blog to show you what a colonoscopy entails so you can take the right step in maintaining your health.

What Is A Colonoscopy Procedure?

If this is your first time hearing the word “colonoscopy,” there’s a good chance you’re asking yourself, “What is a colonoscopy procedure?” or “What does a colonoscopy procedure entail?”

The basic answer to the above question is that a colonoscopy is a medical procedure that gastroenterologists often conduct to screen for colorectal cancer and other gastrointestinal problems. It involves using a long, narrow, flexible, lighted tube with a camera attached to examine the inner lining of the large intestine (colon) where colon cancer starts.

Your gastroenterologist inserts this tube (a colonoscope) through your rectum to visualize any abnormalities, growths, or changes in your colon’s tissue to gain valuable information about the overall health of your colon.


Why Is A Colonoscopy Important?

You might be wondering, “Why is a colonoscopy important?” or “Why does our gastroenterologist recommend it?”. Here’s why we consider it an essential medical examination:

Early Detection of Colorectal Cancer

A colonoscopy can detect precancerous growths (polyps) and identify early-stage cancer. Detecting polyps and early signs of colon cancer increases your chances of successful treatment and survival by up to 90%.

Cancer Prevention through Polyp Removal

If polyps are discovered during a colonoscopy, they can be removed or biopsied. This process helps prevent the progression of benign polyps into cancerous growths, thereby reducing your risk of developing colorectal cancer.

Diagnosis of Gastrointestinal Disorders

Colonoscopies are not only used for cancer screening but for detecting other gastrointestinal issues like diverticulosis, chronic diarrhea, inflammatory bowel diseases (ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease), and unexplained abdominal pain as well.

Provide Peace of Mind

If you have a personal or family history of colorectal problems, undergoing regular colonoscopies can provide peace of mind by knowing you are taking proactive steps to maintain your health.

When Should You Get a Colonoscopy?

The ideal time to get a colonoscopy depends on your risk factors and medical history. However, the general guidelines below can help you determine when to schedule this procedure:


In the past, the general recommendation for average-risk individuals was to start getting regular colonoscopies at 50. However, recent guidelines suggested that screenings should begin earlier, at age 45, due to the rising incidence of colorectal cancer in younger populations.

Family History

You have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer if you have a family member who has colorectal cancer or certain types of adenomatous polyps. So, you might need to start getting colonoscopies earlier than the recommended age.

Generally, you should begin screenings 10 years before the age at which your relative was diagnosed. For instance, if your sister was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 47, you should start getting screened at age 37.

Personal History

If you’ve had a previous history of adenomatous polyps, colorectal cancer, or certain inflammatory bowel diseases, your gastroenterologist may recommend more frequent colonoscopies.

Other Health Conditions

Medical conditions like Lynch syndrome, large bowel obstructions, ulcers and perforations, intestinal ischemia, and familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) can increase your risk of developing colorectal cancer. Your gastroenterologist will determine the appropriate screening schedule if you have these conditions.

Results of Previous Screenings

If your previous colonoscopy procedure reveals no abnormalities, your gastroenterologist will typically recommend follow-up screenings at regular intervals, depending on your risk factors.

You’re Experiencing Signs of Colon Cancer

Common symptoms of colon cancer include:

  • Persistent change in bowel habits (constipation, diarrhea, or a combination of both)
  • Unexplained weight loss, weakness, and fatigue
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
  • Abdominal pain or discomforts like bloating, cramps, or incomplete bowel movements
  • A change in appetite or persistent feeling of fullness

You may need to see your gastroenterologist for a colonoscopy If you experience these symptoms.

How Often Should You Get a Colonoscopy?

Regular colonoscopy screenings are important for early detection, prevention, and overall colorectal health maintenance. However, if you’ve been Googling, “How Often Should You Get a Colonoscopy?” and have been getting mixed sets of answers, we’re here to let you know that the ideal frequency of colonoscopies can vary based on individual risk factors.

Generally, a colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years starting at age 45-50 for average-risk individuals. High-risk individuals with a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps may need screenings more often, usually every 5 years or sooner. Personal polyps or inflammatory bowel disease history may also warrant more frequent screenings.

Note: Although colonoscopies are a highly effective diagnostic procedure, your gastroenterologist may also recommend other screening options such as fecal immunochemical tests (FIT), fecal occult blood tests (FOBT), and sigmoidoscopy based on your circumstances.

Consult your gastroenterologist If you’re unsure when and how often you need a colonoscopy or what screening type is appropriate for you. Your gastroenterologist will provide personalized recommendations and determine the optimal screening schedule for your specific situation.

How Does A Colonoscopy Procedure Work?

A colonoscopy procedure uses a colonoscope to examine the inside of your large intestine. During a colonoscopy procedure in our Columbia Gastrointestinal Endoscopy Center, our gastroenterologist will pass a colonoscope to your colon through your anus and rectum. As it passes through your large intestine, it transmits images of the inside of your colon to a screen where your gastroenterologist can check for anything abnormal.

Once done, our gastroenterologists will remove the colonoscope and repeat the procedure to watch for the second time so we do not miss a thing.

What To Expect Before & After A Colonoscopy Procedure in our West Columbia, St. Andrews, or Lexington Office

If you’re new to colonoscopy, you might wonder what to expect from your first colonoscopy procedure. Here are what to expect before and after a colonoscopy procedure in our Columbia Gastrointestinal Endoscopy Center:


When you visit our colonoscopy center, our gastroenterologists will review your symptoms, health history, and risk factors. Our gastroenterologists will also provide detailed instructions on how to prepare for the procedure. This often includes dietary restrictions, fasting, and taking prescribed laxatives to cleanse your colon to ensure a clear view during the procedure.

The Day Of The Procedure:

Our gastroenterologist will check your vital signs, review your medications, allergies, and medical history and discuss the procedure with you. Then we’ll sedate you to help you relax and minimize discomfort during the procedure. You’ll lie on your side with your knees drawn up toward your chest, and your gastroenterologist will monitor your blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen levels throughout the procedure.

Your gastroenterologist will lubricate the flexible colonoscope, gently insert it through your rectum and monitor the image on the screen to detect abnormalities like polyps, tumors, or inflammation. If any suspicious areas or polyps are found, he will remove polyps or take small tissue samples (biopsies) for further examination. The entire process takes 30 – 60 minutes to complete.

After The Procedure:

Your gastroenterologist will slowly remove the colonoscope and move you to a recovery area, monitoring you until the sedation wears off. Then he will provide post-procedure instructions, including any restrictions, diet recommendations, and when you can resume regular activities.

If biopsies or polyps were taken, they will be sent to a lab to determine if they are benign or cancerous, and you’ll receive the results in your next appointment. Depending on the findings, your gastroenterologist will discuss any necessary follow-up actions or treatments.

Is a Colonoscopy Going To Be Painful?

If you’ve been wondering, “Is a colonoscopy painful?” or “Do I need to prepare for any discomfort during my first colonoscopy procedure?”, then we’re here to tell you that the short answer is NO. 

We perform colonoscopy procedures in our colonoscopy center with patients under a level of anesthesia or sedation to prevent pain and discomfort. Most patients are asleep for the entire procedure and have little to no memory of it afterward.

However, after the procedure, you may experience discomfort like mild cramping, temporary gas, and bloating. These symptoms are minimal and typically resolve within a day or two.

Painless & Stress-Free Colonoscopy in Lexington, West Columbia, & Columbia, SC

At Consultants in Gastroenterology, we take the comfort and health of our patients seriously. That’s why we offer non-invasive colonoscopy procedures in Lexington, West Columbia, Columbia, and Chapin, SC to prevent colon cancer and other gastrointestinal issues.

Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of death in the United States. We encourage you to take your health seriously and contact us today to schedule a colonoscopy appointment to catch polyps early before they become cancerous.

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