Screening Colonoscopy


Why is a colonoscopy important?

The significant risk of developing colon cancer can be greatly reduced by active, regular screening procedures. Large studies have shown that active screening can reduce your colon cancer risk by 90%. All colon cancer begins as a polyp. Not every polyp becomes malignant but by removing all colon polyps the potential for bowel cancer is significantly reduced. By the time symptoms appear, cancer can be well established and, in many cases, already spread to other parts of the body.

Tremendous progress in the field of video scopes has made it relatively simple for your doctor to screen your entire large intestine, or colon during a colonoscopy. Colonoscopy is an important way to check for colon cancer and to treat colon polyps.



What is the risk for colon cancer?

Colon cancer is the second most frequent cause of cancer death in Canada, and will affect 5% of the population in their lifetime. The disease strikes men and women in equal proportions. For those with a family history of colorectal cancer, the risk may in crease significantly. Colorectal cancer has a high survival rate if detected early.

Risks for colon cancer include:

  • Age – 90% of all new cases occur in people over age 45
  • Family or personal history of rectal polyps, colorectal cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, or breast cancer
  • Unhealthy lifestyle – poor eating habits and smoking
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s)

These risk factors can be mitigated through early detection and treatment.



What is a colonoscopy?

A “colonoscopy” is a screening procedure for the entire bowel. The physician uses a colonoscope – a long flexible tubular instrument that has a miniature video camera at the end – which is inserted into the rectum. By adjusting the various controls on the colonoscope, the physician can carefully guide the instrument in any direction, allowing inspection of the lining of the colon for medical problems such as intestinal inflammation, ulceration, bleeding or presence of cancer. If there is anything abnormal, such as a polyp (abnormal growth on the inside lining of the intestine) or inflamed tissue, the physician can painlessly remove all or part of it using the tiny instruments passed through the scope. The tissue (biopsy) is then sent to a lab for testing.


A colonoscopy takes approximately 30 to 60 minutes. The sedative and pain medicine reduce discomfort during the exam, and an additional 1 to 2 hours of recovery time may be required after the procedure, for rest and observation.



How do I prepare for the procedure?

It is very important that you follow the preparation instructions provided. These instructions outline what food and drinks are permissible for 24 hours before the test and what laxatives are required to ensure that your bowel is empty.



What can I expect during the procedure?

An intravenous (IV) will be started so that the doctor can give you sedating medication to make you feel relaxed and sleepy. You may be awake during the procedure but will be unlikely to remember specific details. You may feel uncomfortable for short periods of time during the test because air is used to inflate the bowel. (There is a 1:1000 chance of perforation and a 1:100 chance of bleeding (up to 10 days later) if a polyp is removed. There is a < 5% chance of missing a sizeable polyp or significant lesion (the risks are higher if your bowel is not cleaned adequately).



What can I expect after the procedure is over?

Your pulse, respiration, and blood pressure will be checked. You may feel bloated and have some abdominal cramps. You must not drive for 12 hours post sedation. Please make arrangements for someone else to drive you home after the procedure. Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, you may resume your regular diet immediately after you have had the test. You can go back to work the next day. The results of the procedure will be given to you immediately after its completion. A copy of the report will be sent to your referring doctor.



Book your Assessment Today!

An initial assessment with your surgeon is necessary. Appointments are booked at the Specialist Referral Clinic. The initial assessment is about half an hour long. Consults and screening procedure can be booked for the same day barring you are medically fit. To book your appointment please call 604-737-7464 and our patient coordinators will be delighted to assist you.


Please feel free to call or email us if you have any questions.