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A colonoscopy is a screening test to check for early signs of colorectal cancer. It’s one of the most effective tools for detecting colorectal cancer early, when it’s easier to treat.
Advocate Health Care specialists offer colonoscopies in multiple convenient locations throughout the Chicago metro area. Qualifying patients can schedule a screening colonoscopy with no need for an appointment with a gastrointestinal doctor first. Our Digestive Health Center also offers personal phone consultations and Saturday appointments, making it as easy as possible to get the care you need, when and where you need it.
What is a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a test to look for small growths (polyps) or other irregular tissue in your colon and rectum that could be an early sign of colorectal cancer. Doctors use a flexible tube with a camera (colonoscope) to examine your rectum and entire large intestine (colon).
Colonoscopies are often considered the gold standard for colorectal cancer screening. They find up to 90% of tumors or polyps. When detected in these early stages, up to 90% of people recover fully from colorectal cancer.
Is colon screening the same as a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is one of several types of colon screenings. Depending on your overall risk, your doctor may use other screening tests such as:
- Stool tests to check your stool for the presence of blood. You typically obtain a stool sample at home and submit it to your doctor or a laboratory for analysis.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy to examine your rectum and the lower third of your colon. Your doctor uses a short, lighted tube and you don’t need general anesthesia.
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Screening vs. diagnostic colonoscopies
Traditional colonoscopies use a thin, flexible tube inserted into the anus. Your doctor looks for and removes any polyps found in your colon and rectum.
Your colonoscopy may also be categorized as:
- Screening colonoscopy: These tests check for early signs of cancer when you have no cancer symptoms.
- Diagnostic colonoscopy: You may need this test to check for cancer or other gastrointestinal diseases when you do have symptoms. Doctors may also consider colonoscopy to be diagnostic if you need one more often than once every 10 years.
The test is the same for screening and diagnostic colonoscopies. But a diagnostic colonoscopy appointment may last longer, depending on what your doctor needs to examine. Find out more about what to expect during a colonoscopy.
What diseases can be detected by a colonoscopy?
Colonoscopies typically screen for colorectal cancer. But you may also get a colonoscopy to diagnose gastrointestinal diseases such as:
- Diverticulosis (pockets that grow in the colon) or diverticulitis (pockets that become infected)
- Inflammatory bowel disease, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
- Ischemic colitis (colon inflammation resulting from reduced blood flow to the colon)
- Large bowel obstruction (blockage in the colon that prevents gas or stool from passing and may cause the colon to rupture)
Reasons for an urgent colonoscopy
You usually only have colonoscopies to screen for cancer. But you may need a more urgent colonoscopy if you have any concerning symptoms related to gastrointestinal problems, such as:
- Abdominal pain
- Blood in your stool
- Changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation or incontinence
- Rectal bleeding
- Unexplained fatigue or weakness
- Unexplained weight loss
What do colonoscopy results mean?
Colonoscopy results may be:
- Negative: Your doctor didn’t find any polyps or other tissue irregularities. If you’re at average risk for colorectal cancer, you won’t need another colonoscopy for several years.
- Positive: Your test showed polyps or other irregular tissue.
What happens if a colonoscopy is positive?
Your doctor typically removes a sample of the irregular tissue (biopsy). They test the tissue in a laboratory to determine if it’s cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign).
Often, your doctor can remove polyps during your colonoscopy. Rarely, you may need surgery to remove polyps. Depending on your results, you may need more frequent screening colonoscopies.
What does a colonoscopy cost?
Colonoscopies are typically low- or no-cost with insurance. You may have a copay or other out-of-pocket costs for a diagnostic colonoscopy.
Get a colonoscopy cost estimate
Our team can help you understand your insurance coverage and financial options if you have any cost concerns. We’ll provide a cost estimate based on your insurance plan and medical history. Please call 847-795-2300 for a colonoscopy cost estimate. Learn more about financial assistance and hospital pricing.