Colonoscopy prep requires you to empty your colon completely. Starting about 12 hours before your exam, you’ll be required to avoid solid foods and colored liquids. You may also need to take a laxative and possibly perform an enema.
On the day of your colonoscopy appointment, you’ll be given sedation medication through an IV so you feel relaxed while your doctor examines the entire length of your large intestine (colon).
During the colonoscopy, you’ll lie on your side on an examining table with your knees bent. Your doctor will insert a narrow scope (colonoscope) with a tiny camera on the end through your anus to examine your rectum and your large intestine. They will look for irregularities, such as colon polyps – fleshy growths in your colon’s lining that can lead to cancer. If any polyps are found, they can be removed via a colonic polypectomy using tools inserted through the tube. Your doctor can also collect tissue samples during the procedure. Any abnormal tissue can be biopsied to test for colorectal cancer.
During a virtual colonoscopy (CT colonography), your doctor will perform CT scans to produce pictures of your colon. You’ll lie on your back and your stomach so your doctor can get images from different angles. These scans are then reviewed to check for colon polyps and other abnormalities.
Both a colonoscopy and a virtual colonoscopy each take about 30 minutes to complete. Recovery time is usually about an hour.
After a colonoscopy, it can take up to an hour for the sedative to begin to wear off, and up to a day for the effects of the sedative to disappear completely. Because of this, you won’t be able to drive or work after the colonoscopy, and will need to arrange for a ride home. You should be able to return to normal activity the following day.
If you're 50 or older, your doctor will probably want you to have colonoscopies regularly – this is the most common colonoscopy age to begin getting screened.
If you're younger, and any of the following colon cancer risk factors apply, your doctor may suggest you start early colonoscopy screenings:
Ask your doctor when you should start and how often you should have a colonoscopy.
Colon cancer grows slowly and doesn't always cause symptoms in the early stages. But as it progresses, it can cause:
If you notice any of these warning signs, call your colonoscopy doctor (gastroenterologist).
When a colonoscopy is performed, it’s categorized as either a “screening” or “diagnostic” colonoscopy. Your current symptoms, family history and personal health history will determine how your doctor categorizes your colonoscopy.
Both screening and diagnostic colonoscopies are classified using national guidelines. These guidelines are used by insurance companies to determine the amount of colonoscopy costs they will cover and what your out-of-pocket expenses will be.
Screening colonoscopies are preventive in nature and are used to check for signs of cancer. Most insurance companies will cover the cost of screening colonoscopies beginning at age 50 and then every 10 years thereafter.
If you have a family history of colon cancer, your doctor may order a screening colonoscopy before age 50.
If screening colonoscopies are covered by your insurance plan, there is usually little (if any) out-of-pocket cost to you.
There are 2 reasons a colonoscopy could be considered “diagnostic” in nature:
Many insurance plans cover diagnostic colonoscopies, however the procedure is not considered “preventive.” Because of this, you may be responsible for a co-payment, and may incur out-of-pocket expenses that count toward your deductible.
In some cases, your colonoscopy could be categorized as diagnostic by the hospital and as a screening by your doctor’s office. This is due to national coding guidelines, which cannot be changed. If your colonoscopy is performed in a doctor’s office, it will be categorized as either screening or diagnostic, not both.
Whether your colonoscopy is for screening purposes or diagnostic purposes, biopsies and lab testing could influence the overall cost of the procedure.
If a polyp or mass is found and sent to a Pathology lab for evaluation, the overall cost of the colonoscopy will be more expensive than if no mass is found. Mass removal and testing can occur during both screening and diagnostic colonoscopies.
If you’re in need of a colonoscopy, we can provide a cost estimate for the procedure based on your insurance plan and your medical history. To receive a cost estimate, please call 800-326-2250.