Ask the Doctor

The colonoscopy procedure

Why is a colonoscopy considered the “gold standard” of colorectal cancer screening?
Colonoscopy is the only screening where the physician can actually look at the mucosa directly and intervene at the same time. Other screenings, such as virtual colonoscopy, may not see small, pre-cancerous or cancerous polyps and do not allow for removal of them. To remove the polyps you would need to repeat the entire preparation process and have a complete colonoscopy. Removing polyps is key to preventing cancer.

You mentioned the “preparation process” what is that?
The patient’s preparation for a colonoscopy is the most important aspect in yielding a quality colorectal cancer screening. The process involves a one-day clear liquid fast prior to the procedure and cleansing all stool from the colon with the aid of a strong diuretic beverage that your doctor prescribes.

What is involved in getting a colonoscopy? Will it be uncomfortable or painful?
Sedation is used so there is no pain or awareness of the procedure. The actual colonoscopy is often cited as the easiest part of the screening process. Your dignity and privacy are carefully maintained by your providers. There may be some discomfort after the procedure when the air that was used to inflate your colon releases. Patients who receive carbon dioxide inflation may not have any discomfort as it absorbs into the body faster.

Rana Sabbagh, M.D., is board-certified in internal medicine, gastroenterology and nutrition. She is the founder of GastroCenter of Michigan and Experior Weight Loss Clinic, 23500 Park St., Suite 2B in Dearborn. Do you have a health question for Dr. Sabbagh? Submit it by email to: