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Published on May 01, 2017

colonoscopies in hillsboro wisconsin

Demystifying colonoscopies: What is a colonoscopy and why do I need one?

What is colorectcal cancer?

Colon cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells that line the colon or large intestine. Most originate from benign polyps - also known as adenomatous.

Colon cancer is the third most common cause of cancer death in the U.S., and it is the second most prevalent type of cancer. Regular annual screenings for both men and women aged 50 to 75 years is recommended by the U.S. Preventive Task Force. These screenings are classified as Grade A – meaning they have a high certainty that the net benefit of having them is substantial.

Typical symptoms of colon cancer include:

  • abdominal pain
  • a change in bowel habits
  • blood in the stool
  • unexplained weight loss
  • anemia

Colon Cancer and Colonoscopy Statistics:

Percent of U.S. Men Who Develop Colorectal Cancer over 10-, 20-, and 30-Year Intervals According to Their Current Age, 2010–2012

Current Age

10 Years

20 Years

30 Years





















Percent of U.S. Women Who Develop Colorectal Cancer over 10-, 20-, and 30-Year Intervals According to Their Current Age, 2010–2012

Current Age

10 Years

20 Years

30 Years





















Incidence Trends

From 2003 to 2012 in the United States, the incidence rate of colorectal cancer—


  • Decreased significantly by 3.6 percent per year among men.
  • Decreased significantly by 3.2 percent per year among women.


  • Decreased significantly by 2.8 percent per year among men.
  • Decreased significantly by 2.8 percent per year among women.

Data source: Ryerson AB, Eheman CR, Altekruse SF, Ward JW, Jemal A, Sherman RL, Henley SJ, Holtzman D, Lake A, Noone AM, Anderson RN, Ma J, Ly KN, Cronin KA, Penberthy L, Kohler BA. Annual report to the nation on the status of cancer, 1975–2012, featuring the increasing incidence of liver cancer Cancer 2016;122(9):10.1002/cncr.29936.

About Colonoscopy Screenings

Colonoscopy screening can help to identify colon cancer. The American Cancer Society suggests screening tests, particularly colonoscopy, for early detection of colon cancer.

Colonoscopy is the best method because it will visualize the entire colon and can remove polyps during the procedure. Other screening tests include annual fecal occult blood tests, stool DNA testing, flexible sigmoidoscopy (every five years) and CT colonography (every five years).

These frequency recommendations depend, however, on a person's particular risk of colon cancer due to other risk factors.

In general, physicians recommend standard preventive measures such as keeping a healthy weight, exercising and increasing consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains while decreasing saturated fat and red meat intake. In addition, people are recommended to limit alcohol consumption and quit smoking.

Does my insurance cover my colonoscopy?

Since the affordable care act, colonoscopies are covered by most insurances. We advise calling your insurance before scheduling your appointment to find out more about your coverage. 

How do I arrange a colonoscopy?

The first step is to make an appointment with your primary care provider for a checkup and to discuss your need for screening.

After an assessment, your provider will  refer you to a gastroenterologist or general surgeon and make an appointment with the hospital, surgery center or GI clinic.

What is involved in having a colonoscopy?

Preparing for a colonoscopy

In order for the physician to get a good view of the colon and its lining, all of the contents of the colon must be cleared. This is accomplished by drinking a laxative solution and/or taking laxative medication to increase the rate of contraction or peristalsis of the colon and to “flush” the contents. Miralax, Dulcolax and Gatorade or Golytely and Crystal light are common colon preparation recipes. Generally, a light breakfast and lunch is suggested the day before your procedure followed by your preparation recipe– stay near a restroom! Once you have taken your preparation, only clear liquids should be consumed, and then nothing to eat or drink as directed by the facility.

The day of your colonoscopy

The nurse will help you to prepare for your procedure. Preparation begins by changing into a hospital gown and reviewing your health history with the nurse. An IV is started and our anesthesia provider will speak with you about the anesthetic. Finally, you will meet with the surgeon who will be able to answer any last minute questions.

The colonoscopy itself

You will be taken to the procedure room on a cart. The anesthesia provider will apply monitoring devices to track your vital signs and heart rhythm. You will be asked to turn onto your left side. The anesthesia provider will administer medications that decrease anxiety, promote temporary amnesia and mask pain. Your doctor will complete the procedure and you will awaken back in your room. The hardest part of the entire procedure is the bowel prep.

Will I be awake during my colonoscopy?

Many people are concerned about being awake during the procedure. While complete absence of any memory of the procedure is not 100 percent guaranteed, the majority of people treated have no memory of the procedure at all. This is because we have highly skilled anesthesia staff who provide sedation and analgesia for our endoscopy procedures. Because of the medications used by our anesthesia providers, the incidence of nausea is very low and the rate of recovery from the medications is rapid.

Rarely, complications of a colonoscopy may include:

  • Adverse reaction to the sedative used during the exam.
  • Bleeding from the site where a tissue sample (biopsy) was taken or a polyp or other abnormal tissue was removed.
  • A tear in the colon or rectum wall (perforation)

Recovering after a colonoscopy

Recovery is typically rapid and normally people feel coherent after about 30 minutes. Everyone responds to anesthesia individually, so variations commonly occur. You will be offered a beverage and toast when you are awake to ease your hunger and thirst. Once you are stable and able to drink, your IV can be removed.

Discharge process for colonoscopies

The nurse will review your discharge instructions with you (based on the findings of the exam) and your driver. Once you meet criteria for discharge, you will be given a ride in a wheelchair to your waiting vehicle. The entire process usually takes between two and three hours.

Follow up after a colonoscopy

If you have polyps or biopsies, the results will be available in approximately one week. Your provider will review your results and recommend further treatment or follow up exams based on the findings.

For more information on colonoscopies, call our team at (608) 489-8000 or speak to your primary care provider.

Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System staff deliver great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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