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Preparing for a Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy is a test to view the inside of your lower digestive tract (colon and rectum). Sometimes it can show the last part of the small intestine (ileum). During the test, small pieces of tissue may be removed for testing. This is called a biopsy. Small growths, such as polyps, may also be removed.

Why is colonoscopy done?

The test is done to help look for colon cancer. And it can help find the source of abdominal pain, bleeding, and changes in bowel habits. It may be needed once a year to every 10 years, depending on factors such as your:

  • Age
  • Health history
  • Family health history
  • Symptoms
  • Results from any prior colonoscopy

Risks and possible complications

  • Bleeding
  • A puncture or tear in the colon
  • Risks of anesthesia
  • A cancer lesion not being seen or fully removed

Getting ready

To prepare for the test

  • Tell your healthcare provider about any medicines and supplements you take. Also tell him or her about any health conditions you may have
  • Make sure your rectum and colon are empty for the test. Follow the diet and bowel prep instructions exactly. If you don’t, the test may need to be reschedule
  • Plan for a friend or family member to drive you home after the test

If your provider has ordered for you to have a colonoscopy, please review the following instructions:

If you have questions or need to reschedule your procedure, please call 202-745-8523.