Colonoscopy Procedures: 5 Significant Details About this Golden Standard Test for Colon Cancer

Colonoscopy procedures are a vital part of detecting colon cancer. Recently, the American Cancer Society released new guidelines. The organization recommends men and women to undergo colon cancer screening at age 45. 

Colon Cancer remains the third most common cancer in the world. More than 100,000 people die every year because of this malignant condition. With early screening, colon cancer can be treated successfully. 

Are Colonoscopy Procedures Diagnostic? 

A colonoscopy is a golden standard test. It is diagnostic and therapeutic. If your doctor saw polyps, he could remove them, send them to the lab to know whether or not they are malignant. 

Doctors handling the procedure would go through the whole colon, which is around five to six feet.

Unfortunately, not all insurance companies are on board with the new guidelines. Most people are also not in agreement when having a colonoscopy. The majority of them would choose a stool-based test. 

Insurers will only pay for one of the tests but not both. This can be a problem because colonoscopy can cost a lot of money. 

Still, if you are 45, you should start to get screened for colon cancer. It does not have to be a colonoscopy. Check with your physician. 

How painful is a colonoscopy? 

The procedure itself is not at all painful. The preparation for the procedure is the one that gives discomfort. It can take a few days to prepare your colon for it. 

Gastroenterologists performed this type of procedure. They specialize in issues and conditions that are related to your digestive tract. 

You will lie on your side before the procedure begins. A medication is given intravenously. It will make you sleepy. 

The doctor will insert a flexible tube in your rectum. The tube has a tiny light and camera that enables the doctor to find any abnormalities, such as ulcers and polyps. 

When your doctor sees some polyps, they are removed using a looped wire. That’s why this procedure is also therapeutic as any questionable polyps can reduce your risk of colon cancer by 40%. 

Once the tube is inside you, you cannot feel it. The reason for this is that you are fully sedated. When you are awake, the procedure will be over. You will not remember having it at all. 

Complete sedation is optional. If you do not want to be fully sedated during the procedure, you can talk to your doctor about it in advance. 

What is Sedation for a Colonoscopy? 

Sedation may be necessary for a colonoscopy. However, some patients would want to opt-out of sedation. In a study, 5% of patients who underwent without sedation experienced no pain but 41% experienced mild pain. 

Thus, researchers said that colonoscopy without sedation is possible in most patients. However, sedation is still the more cost-effective option. It is also safer. 

As regards to sedation drugs, your doctor will determine the perfect sedation for your situation. You may be given just mild sedation or anesthesia. Before the procedure, doctors may utilize one of the following sedatives: 

  • Propofol
  • Promethazine
  • Meperidine 
  • Fentanyl 
  • Propofol
  • Diazepam
  • Diphenhydramine
  • Midazolam 

The dose and drugs will depend on your age, race, gender, and drug use history. 

Colonoscopy Procedure Time: How long does a colonoscopy take? 

The procedure can take around 20 minutes. However, it depends on some factors. If your physician finds a growth or polyp, he will take a biopsy sample and send it off to a lab for further testing. 

If you experience bleeding after the polyp has been removed, your doctor may use another heat source to stop the bleeding. 

In other words, if your case is complicated, the entire procedure can take more than 20 minutes. But it is a necessary procedure, especially if you have a medical history of colorectal cancer or if your doctor suspects of some polyps in your colon.

Colonoscopy Recovery: How to Recover? 

After the procedure, you will wait for at least an hour before you can fully recover from the effects of the sedatives or anesthesia. 

Once you are fully recovered, you can eat and drink anything that is gentle on your digestive system. You may still feel the urge to defecate because of the effects of those laxatives you took before the procedure. 

To prevent dehydration, you need to drink a lot of water. Make sure to only eat fluid-based foods. You may eat a soft diet or food after the procedure. 

Your doctor may also recommend eating low-fiber food that you can easily digest and produce less stool. 

You may drink beverages with electrolytes, like Gatorade. Or you may just drink more water, fruit juice or vegetable juice. Herbal tea is also great. 

For food, you may eat saltine crackers, scrambled eggs, cooked vegetables, and other healthy options. But you must avoid food options that are difficult to digest. 

These food options would include spicy foods and those that contain a high amount of fiber. Greasy food is not allowed as it causes you to feel nauseated. 

You may expect to expel more gas than you normally do. In that case, you should avoid carbonated beverages as they can just add more gas to your body. 

Even if the result is negative, you must start taking care of your colon. It is a part of your digestive system that you need to take care of to help you maintain a healthy life. 

You should start eating more fruits and vegetables. Opt for lean protein, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. If you can avoid dairy, then that would be better. 

Your gut will thank you if you avoid high-sugar foods and desserts. It is also beneficial to stop eating foods that are high in saturated fats. Avoid red meat and processed meat as well. 

If you wish to have good colon health, make sure to avoid smoking cigarettes or even vaping. Furthermore, you must stay active. 

Start a regular exercise routine. You do not need to exercise for more than an hour. Brisk walking for 30 minutes a day will help in reducing your insulin levels. It also helps in keeping your weight down. 

In a study, researchers found that people who are physically active are less likely to have colon cancer compared to those who do not exercise regularly


Colonoscopy procedures can take at least 20 minutes to complete. Sedation may be necessary but you may opt not to have one. Even though the procedure can be nerve-racking considering that a tube is inserted into your rectum, it is a necessary diagnostic and therapeutic procedure.

Colonoscopy At What Age to Start Getting It

Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

Colonoscopy, at what age is the best to start undergoing such a procedure? It depends on your medical and family history. This procedure is recommended for most individuals at age 50. However, you should consult with your doctor about the best age to start getting it. In some cases, you may have to undergo it even if you are still in your 20s. 

Many of you may think that because you are in your 20s, 30s or 40s, you cannot develop colorectal cancer. Unfortunately, the cases of colorectal cancer in young adults are increasing.  

For that reason, doctors are encouraging young people (younger than 50) to consult with their doctors if they experience some symptoms, like rectal bleeding, changes in bowel movements and constipation. 

Regular screening is necessary for patients who have an average risk of this type of cancer. Screening tests will include a fecal occult blood test and a fecal immunochemical test. 

These tests must be performed each year. Then, you may consider stool DNA tests per three years. Every five years, you must undergo CT colonography. Then, every 10 years, you must undergo colonoscopy. 

At What Age to Undergo Colonoscopy if You Have the First-Degree Relative with Colon Cancer? 

It is uncommon for people to undergo colonoscopy as young as 22 years old. However, it can be a smart move especially if you have a first-degree relative who had this type of cancer. 

Doctors encouraged people with multiple relatives suffering from colon cancer to be screened at a younger age. 

People with an inherited disorder that increases their risk of developing different types of cancer should also undergo such a procedure at a young age. 

Furthermore, if you have a history of inflammatory bowel disease, you should also get this procedure at a young age. 

And if you have bleeding when you defecate, then you should consider this procedure, even if you are still young. 

Is It Wrong to Undergo Colonoscopy at a Young Age? 

The mortality rates for people with colon cancer in young patients under age 50 are increasing. In that case, there is nothing wrong if you undergo it at a young age. Your doctor will recommend it if it is necessary. 

Colonoscopies dropped the colorectal rate. However, you cannot just undergo this procedure without any medical or genetic reasons. 

Keep in mind that the entire procedure requires that you are sedated. 

Bleeding may also arise when your doctor removes some polyps. 

The risk of tearing is also present, even though it is low. 

If you have symptoms, like rectal bleeding, then your doctor may recommend this procedure. However, a physical rectal examination may be appropriate for young adults. 

This type of examination will help identify suspicious mass in the rectum. However, your doctor cannot determine if the mass is cancerous or not during a rectal examination. 

On the other hand, if you have blood in your stool, then your doctor will send you for a colonoscopy. 

Why Colorectal Cancer Rates Are Increasing? 

No doctor can point the reason colorectal cancer numbers are increasing in young people. But obesity may play a huge role. A poor diet is another factor. 

Having a healthy diet and lifestyle can lower your risk of developing this malignant disease. Your risk is also high if you have a sedentary lifestyle and you have high blood pressure. 

If you consume a lot of red meat and suffer from vitamin D deficiency, then you are likely a candidate for this type of cancer. 

What Are Signs That Would Prompt Doctors to Send Patients for a Colonoscopy Regardless of Age? 

No matter how young you are, if you notice any of these symptoms, then you must consider talking to your doctor: 

Unusual Feces

You should watch out for dark or black stools. They can indicate that there is bleeding from a tumor. 

If your feces is thin or ribbon-like, then it can indicate that a tumor obstructs your bowels or rectum. 

Bowel Movement Changes 

If you suddenly move for less than three times a week or if you have a loose stool for a few days or weeks, it could be a sign that there is something wrong with your bowel. Talk to your doctor about it. 

Low Energy 

If you feel that you are always tired, it could be the result of anemia because of blood loss. 

Chronic anemia from menstrual bleeding may also result in low energy. However, it is still a good idea to talk to your doctor to discover other causes of your tiredness or fatigue. 

Rectal Bleeding 

Some young adults are experiencing rectal bleeding. It could be caused by anything. However, to be sure, you need to consult with your physician. It is especially true if you experience changes in your bowel habits. 

Stool that enters a healthy colon is watery. However, as it goes to the end of the colon, the fluid is absorbed causing it to become more solid when you defecate. 

The loose stool may move past a mass. However, if the mass completely obstructs the bowel, then you may not be able to pass stool. 

Unfortunately, rectal bleeding can be a symptom of a lot of diseases, like hemorrhoids. That’s why you need to consult with your physician to ensure that it is not something serious. 

You must talk to your physician if you have rectal bleeding and this type of cancer runs in your family. Even if you are under 50, your physician may still recommend that you undergo colonoscopy. 

When your doctor recommends that you undergo this procedure, you need to consider it. Do not be afraid of it. 

Even though the colonoscopy prep can be dreadful because you need to take strong laxatives to clean out your bowels, you must endure it. 

Keep in mind that this procedure is considered a gold standard for identifying colorectal cancer. When this cancer is caught early, it can save your life. 

On another note, if your colonoscopy result returns positive, you should follow your doctor’s recommendations. Surgery is highly successful even for patients with advanced colorectal disease. 


There is no right age to undergo colonoscopy. It depends on your medical condition and the recommendation of your doctor. If you have a medical history of colorectal cancer, you may ask your doctor regarding colonoscopy at what age you must undergo it.
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