Colonoscopy - Virtua Medical Service

Don’t Shy Away From This Important Screening

A colonoscopy is a simple colon cancer screening test that allows a gastroenterologist or colorectal surgeon to look at the inside of the colon (lower intestines) and rectum. The screening is used to detect:

  • Polyps, precancerous abnormal growths
  • Tumors
  • Inflammation
  • Ulcers
  • Bleeding

Even though colon cancer is so easily prevented, it remains the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. The latest research from the Centers for Disease Control suggests that more than 20 million Americans age 50 to 75 have never been tested for colon and rectal cancer, and 1 in 3 adults are not up-to-date with their screenings.

Don’t let fear or embarrassment keep you from having a colonoscopy. Talk to your doctor and schedule a screening. It could save your life.  

Colon Cancer Screening at Virtua

The Virtua doctors and nurses on our colonoscopy team take great care to ensure that our patients have a safe, comfortable experience.

Our team uses high-definition colonoscopy scopes (cameras) that show greater detail of the lining of the intestine, as well as emphasize suspicious growths such as polyps or precancerous lesions that are usually hard to see.

If needed, Virtua provides leading-edge procedures, including robotic surgery and transanal endoscopic microsurgery (TEMS). This minimally invasive procedure is successful in removing benign or early-stage cancerous rectal tumors as well as large polyps that can’t be removed by an endoscope.

In addition, free screenings are available for under- or un-insured residents of Burlington and Camden counties. 

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What You need to Know About Colonoscopy

Why Colonoscopy is So Important

  • Colon polyps are precancerous growths that grow slowly (over many years) and can become cancerous tumors.
  • When caught early through colonoscopy, precancerous polyps can be removed, often during the screening.
  • Early diagnosis and treatment are proven to reduce colon cancer death rates dramatically.

Who Should Have a Colonoscopy

  • Everyone age 50 and older
  • Younger people who have had a first-degree relative (mother, father, siblings) diagnosed with colorectal cancer at or before age 50. In these cases, the recommended age to start colonoscopy screenings is the age of onset for that relative minus 10 years. (i.e.  If your father developed colorectal cancer at age 45, you should have a colonoscopy at age 35.)
  • People who are considered at high-risk for colon cancer because of diseases like ulcerative colitis or another type of inflammatory bowel disease
  • People who have symptoms such as rectal bleeding, change in bowel habits with new constipation or diarrhea, abdominal pain or weight loss

What to Expect with a Colonoscopy

  • Your doctor will ask you to abstain from all food and certain colored beverages for 1-2 days before your colonoscopy.
  • The day before the colonoscopy, you’ll take bowel preparation medication to empty stool from the colon. This allows the doctor to clearly see and examine the intestinal lining. This “prep” often involves a series of laxative doses that cause frequent, watery bowel movements.
  • On the day of the colonoscopy, you’ll be given intravenous (IV) sedation so you’re comfortable during the exam.
  • The doctor inserts a scope through the anus and into the rectum. The scope is a long, thin flexible tube that has a tiny camera and light that allows the doctor to view the colon lining on a video screen.
  • A typical colonoscopy takes about 30 minutes but plan to be at the hospital/surgery center for at least 2 hours for preparation, the procedure, and recovery.
  • Polyp removal and tissue biopsies often are performed at the time of the screening. These specimens are sent to pathology for examination, and patients receive results within a week.

How Often You Need a Colonoscopy

  • If your colonoscopy is clean (shows no polyps or disease) and you have NO family history of colon cancer or inflammatory bowel disease, the recommendation is to repeat the screening in 10 years.
  • If your colonoscopy is clean and you HAVE a family history of colon cancer or inflammatory bowel disease, the recommendation is to repeat the screening in 5 years.
  • If you have polyps, you’ll usually need another colonoscopy in 3 years.
  • If you have 10 or more polyps or polyps larger than 1 ½ centimeters, it’s recommended to repeat your colonoscopy in 1 year.

What if You're Diagnosed with Colorectal Cancer

  • If discovered early, colorectal cancer often can be cured with surgery alone.
  • Colon resection surgery, which is used to remove diseased portions of the colon, is often performed using minimally invasive or robotic techniques without the need for open abdominal surgery.
  • With more advanced cancer, the treatment is much more involved and often requires radiation and/or chemotherapy.
  • Virtua's free colorectal cancer nurse navigation program service pairs you with an oncology nurse who can review your case with you and provide a personalized level of support to help you better understand your diagnosis, care plan and medications.

5 Fantastic Things About Getting a Colonoscopy

Did you realize how many great things go hand-in-hand with getting a colonoscopy? Check out these 5 fantastic reasons to get this life-saving screening now.

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