published Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Ask a doctor: What is colonoscopy? Do I need one?

By Dr. Shauna Lorenzo-Rivera

Q: What is colonoscopy? Do I need one?

A: It is a safe, effective means to examine the full lining of the colon and rectum using a flexible, tubular instrument. It is used to diagnose colon and rectum problems and remove colon polyps. Most colonoscopies are done on an outpatient basis with minimal inconvenience and discomfort. Your physician may recommend a colonoscopy if you have change in bowel habit or bleeding. All adults should have their first colonoscopy by the age of 50 unless they are at high risk. High risks means having colorectal cancer or polyps in your family. Then you should begin your screening colonoscopy 10 years earlier than the youngest person diagnosed with this problem or age 40, whichever comes first. Screening is recommended every 10 years for most adults, every five if you have risk factors. Colonoscopies now can detect and remove most polyps without abdominal surgery. It is more accurate than an X-ray exam of the colon to detect polyps or early cancer.

— Dr. Shauna Lorenzo-Rivera, University Surgical Associates; member, Tennessee Medical Association

Readers: To submit a question, email it to Clint Cooper at

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