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Catching Cancer Early with Colonoscopies

elderly couple

Annelise Jacobson, BSN Student | Sycamore Health Center | 3/18/2015

Let’s be honest, who wants to talk about colorectal cancer? Very few people. And even fewer get screened, even though it is the second most deadly type of cancer. It can often cause no symptoms, and usually starts from small growths called “polyps” in your intestines and colon. It is important to catch these early, to prevent cancer and health complications.

Who should get screened?

  • If you are 50 or older, it’s time to get screened.
  • If you have a family or personal history of colorectal cancer, talk to your primary care provider.  

How do I get screened?

  • The best screening method is a colonoscopy, although you can discuss other screening methods with your nurse practitioner.

How do I prevent colorectal cancer?

  • Exercise
  • Quit smoking
  • Eat at least 2.5 servings of vegetables each day

What to Expect:

  • Before the procedure: Tell your nurse practitioner all the medications or supplements you are taking. You may have to stop taking some for a short time before having a colonoscopy. You will be prescribed something called “bowel prep” which is designed to clean out your intestines. In other words, it’s going to make you poop! You will have to stop eating at a certain point before the test. It is important to follow these instructions because you will get anesthesia during the test, and the provider needs to have a clear picture inside your colon.
  • The procedure: The good news about a colonoscopy is that you probably won’t remember it! The medicines and anesthesia will make you sleep. The doctor will use a special camera called a scope to look at your rectum and intestines. If polyps are found, they will be removed and sent to a lab to be tested for cancer. Polyps often are not cancerous or have not progressed to cancer, so removing them is an essential preventative measure.
  • After the procedure: You will stay at the hospital or clinic until you wake up from the medicine. Make sure you have someone drive you home. The doctor can tell you right away if anything was found, but it may take a few days to get test results on removed polyps. Be sure to keep track of any bleeding you have after you go home, and call your doctor if the bleeding does not stop after gently patting with toilet paper.

Next Steps

  • Schedule a colonoscopy. Your primary care provider can refer you. Call the nurse practitioners at Sycamore Health Center, 319-337-9066.
  • Most health insurance plans, including Medicare will pay for this screening.

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A faculty practice unit under College of Nursing Health Care, the Sycamore Health Center is a primary care and mental health services clinic operated entirely by nurse practitioners. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 319-337-9066, email or visit


Posted On: 
Mar 18th, 2015