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When Should You Get a Colonoscopy?

Our team recommends starting regular colorectal cancer screenings at age 45. Colorectal cancer screenings, such as a colonoscopy or at-home FIT testing, help detect colon and rectal cancer early. However, because patients often find it late, colorectal cancer is the third deadliest cancer in the United States.

Calling Hours:

Mon–Fri, 7 am–5 pm
Closed Saturday and Sunday

Where to Get a Colorectal Cancer Screening

You may receive a colorectal cancer screening at Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah Hospital, or at one of University of Utah Health‘s neighborhood health centers. There are a few different ways to screen for gastrointestinal cancer:

At-home tests are available at University of Utah Health locations. Ask your primary care provider to learn more.

Colonoscopy Near Me

Colorectal Cancer Screening Guidelines

Huntsman Cancer Institute and University of Utah Health recommend you start screening for colorectal cancer at age 45.

Talk to your provider about what cancer screenings are right for you. Screening recommendations differ if you have higher-than-average risk and a family history of colorectal cancer. You may need additional screening exams.

Risk factors for colorectal cancer include:

Our team at The Family Cancer Assessment Clinic at Huntsman Cancer Institute helps you find out if genes play a role in your personal or family health history.

Test for Colon Cancer Without a Colonoscopy: At-home Stool Tests

Your provider may recommend that you complete an at-home stool test (like a Fecal Immunochemical Test or a Fecal Occult Blood Test). These tests look for blood in your poop (stool). There is no preparation or recovery, and you can do these test yourself at home.

If an at-home test result is positive, this means that you have small amounts of blood in your stool. You may not have colorectal cancer. But you will need a colonoscopy as soon as possible after a positive result to find out why there’s blood in your stool.

If your at-home test is negative, there is no detected blood in your stool. After your negative result, your provider will recommend that you repeat an at-home test each year.

How to Do a FIT Test (At-Home Colorectal Cancer Screening)

Animated video about how to conduct an at-home colorectal cancer screening

What Is a Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a procedure in which a trained specialist uses a long, flexible, thin tube with a light and tiny camera on one end (called a colonoscope or scope) to look inside your rectum and colon. A colonoscopy can help a specialist find the cause of unexplained symptoms, such as:

  • changes in your bowel activity,
  • diarrhea,
  • bleeding from your anus, or
  • unexplained weight loss.

Gastroenterologists also use colonoscopies as screening tools for colon polyps (abnormal growths) or to find a problem before it becomes harder to treat. A colonoscopy tests for colorectal cancer, even if you don’t have symptoms. 

Depending on what they find, your specialist will recommend that you repeat a colonoscopy in 1–10 years.

Colonoscopy Procedure: What to Expect

Colonoscopy Illustration

A colonoscopy usually takes about 30–60 minutes long. Just before the procedure, we place an intravenous (IV) needle in your vein to give you sedatives and pain medicine. The dedicated health care staff watches your vital signs and keeps you as comfortable as possible the whole time.

For the procedure, you lay on a table while your specialist inserts a tool called a colonoscope into your anus and guides it up through your colon (large intestine). A camera on the colonoscope sends a video image for your specialist to examine.

The colonscope also pumps air into your colon to give the specialist a better view. Once the scope travels all the way through your large intestine and to the opening of your small intestine, your specialist slowly withdraws the tool to check your colon lining on the way out of your body.

The provider may remove polyps (abnormal growths) during the procedure and send them to the pathology lab for testing. Colon polyps are common in adults and harmless in most cases. However, most colon cancer begins as a polyp, so removing polyps early is an effective way to prevent cancer.

The doctor may also perform a biopsy. You won't feel the biopsy or removal of polyps.

Your colonoscopy results normally take a few days to a week to arrive. You may need more treatment and testing depending on your results.

After a Colonoscopy: What to Expect

After a colonoscopy, you may stay at the hospital or clinic for one or two hours to make sure that you have the best recovery possible. Most people experience little to no discomfort after their colonoscopy, but you may experience some of the following common side effects:

  • Abdominal cramping or bloating during the first hour after the procedure
  • Feeling drowsy due to sedatives or anesthesia wearing off
  • Light bleeding from the anus if your specialist took a biopsy sample
  • Moderate hunger

You should not drive home after your colonoscopy. Plan ahead to use public transportation or arrange for a ride. Someone may come with you to your appointment.

If you experience any of the following after your colonoscopy, seek medical care:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Continued bloody bowel movements or continued bleeding from the anus
  • Dizziness

Next Steps

Call 801-213-9797 to make an appointment with our gastroenterologists. Our team will answer your calls on Monday–Friday from 7 am–5 pm. You don't need a referral to make an appointment. 

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