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FAQ - Colonoscopy

What is a colonoscopy?

  • A colonoscopy is a procedure that allows the doctor to examine the inside of your colon and rectum. A long flexible tube (colonoscope) with a small camera is passed into your rectum and colon. On a video monitor, the doctor looks for any abnormal areas on the lining of your colon. Sometimes a small tissue sample will be taken. This is called a biopsy.

  • If polyps (small growths) are found, they can be removed using tiny tools passed through the colonoscope. The samples will be sent to a lab where they will be checked for any signs of cancer.

What if I have had a colonoscopy within the past 5 years?

  • Since you have already had a colonoscopy, you are already screened and do not need to do a home screening test at this time. A colonoscopy is the test that is recommended after an abnormal home screening test.

  • As it is a diagnostic test, most people do not need to be screened for 5 years after having a colonoscopy.

What are the benefits of a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is the most effective way to diagnose colon cancer and can prevent colon cancer by finding and removing polyps before they turn into cancer.

What are the risks of a colonoscopy?

For most people, having a colonoscopy is a safe and straightforward procedure. However, the following rare complications are possible:

  • A tender lump or redness might occur where the IV is placed in your arm.

  • Medications given may cause breathing or blood pressure problems, a rash, or fever.

  • Bleeding may occur after biopsies or removal of a polyp. In rare cases you may need to receive blood or require surgery. Research shows there is just over a 1 in a 1000 chance of having major bleeding after a colonoscopy.

  • A hole may occur in the colon. If this happens you may be given antibiotics, IV fluids or may require surgery. Research shows there is under a 1 in a 1000 chance of this happening.

  • In extremely rare cases, people have died. Research suggests this happens in approximately 1 in 10,000 -14,000 colonoscopies.

  • There is also a small chance that a polyp or cancer may be missed depending on how well the colon can be seen.
  • Colonoscopy (pdf) English | French

  • Watch a video explaining the colonoscopy:

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