Colorectal Cancer Screenings
Protect your health with screenings for colorectal cancer at Virginia Hospital Center. These tests can reveal cancer before you experience symptoms. With early detection, colorectal cancer survival rates are more than 80%.
Before scheduling a colonoscopy—the gold standard for detecting colon cancer—you'll meet with a gastroenterologist, who will:
- Perform a physical exam
- Review your medical history
- Explain how to prepare for your exam
- Schedule your procedure
Age for initial screening:
- Age 50
Individuals with no family history of colorectal cancer or polyps.
- Age 45
African-Americans with no known risk factors.
- Age 40 or Younger
Individuals with a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, child) who was diagnosed with colorectal cancer before age 60 or individuals with two first degree relatives diagnosed at any age should be screened at age 40 or 10 years before the youngest relative's diagnosis —whichever comes first. Women diagnosed with breast, uterine or ovarian cancer should talk with their doctor about having a screening colonoscopy at the time of their diagnosis.
- Follow-up Colonoscopy Interval until the next colonoscopy depends on findings of initial colonoscopy and preexisting risk factors of patient.
What to Expect
You'll receive sedation to relax you and anesthesia to prevent pain before your colonoscopy. Then, a gastroenterologist (digestive health doctor) will slide a thin tube with a camera and light into your large intestine to look for polyps, or lumps. Your doctor will remove the polyps to check them for cancer.
The day before your colonoscopy, you'll need to clean out your large intestine so the doctor can clearly see your colon. Per your doctor’s instructions, take laxative prep medication (typically just two tablets and two small bottles of liquid). Consume only liquids.
Arrange for a ride home after your colonoscopy.
Your visit will last about two hours, but the exam takes less than 30 minutes. Follow these instructions.
- Arrive one hour prior to your appointment.
- Go to Gastrointestinal Endoscopy Center/GI Unit (Parking B, Zone B, second floor - Suite 206 of 1635 N. George Mason Drive) to check in.
- Follow your nurse to a pre-op room for the admission process.
- Follow your nurse to the procedure room for your colonoscopy.
After Your Colonoscopy
After your colonoscopy, your care team will monitor your vital signs until you awake from the sedation and anesthesia. Then:
- The gastroenterologist explains what was found during your procedure.
- A nurse reviews your discharge instructions.
- You can go home when your vitals are stable, you’re awake and alert, and your ride has arrived.
- You may rest at home.
Your insurance plan likely covers colonoscopies. Check whether it requires you to get a referral from a primary care provider before making an appointment with a gastroenterologist.
Computed tomography (CT) colonography, or virtual colonoscopy, is a less invasive way to screen for colorectal cancer or diagnose the condition. Your doctor may recommend this procedure if you’re at risk of complications from a traditional colonoscopy.
What to Expect
During colonography, you’ll lie on a CT scanner. Then, a medical professional will slide a tiny tube into your rectum and inject air to make the colon swell. The machine will take pictures of your widened intestine using low doses of radiation.
This quick test requires no anesthesia. You may feel cramping afterward, but it should pass quickly.
You’ll receive instructions on drinking a solution to cleanse your colon before the test. When your large intestine is clear, the CT scanner will get the best pictures, and you’ll get more accurate results.
Medicare covers CT colonography in certain cases. Ask your insurance provider whether it will cover the test in your situation.