Many patients celebrate their 50th birthday by scheduling their first colonoscopy. More than 10 million colonoscopies are performed each year, and statistics show that these screenings may reduce the risk of colon cancer by almost 90 percent. Colonoscopies are the most effective way to detect and often treat colon lesions, ultimately preventing the disease.
The traditional endoscopic exam "colonoscopy" is performed with the use of a flexible fiber-optictube. The instrument, which is inserted into the rectum, contains a small video camera which enables the doctor to see the inside of the colon. The scope is long enough to visualize the entire large intestine and enables the doctor to help identify polyps, bleeding, tumors and inflammation. In addition, procedures such as biopsies or removal of polyps can also be performed directly through this scope. The entire colon can be screened for pre-cancerous lesions which can easily be removed at the same time with little pain or discomfort. Risks, although quite rare, include possible perforation or tearing of the colon (which may require surgery), abdominal bloating and bleeding.