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Colonoscopy Guidelines

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.
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Colorectal Surgery

Colorectal Cancer Awareness

Virginia Hospital Center invites you to learn more about colorectal cancer and its prevention and treatment. A potentially serious disease if left undetected, colorectal cancer can often be prevented through regular screenings, a healthy diet and consistent exercise. The key to successful treatment is catching the disease early, so regular screenings are important.

What You Should Know About Colorectal Cancer

  • Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the U.S.
  • The average person’s lifetime risk of developing it is 1 in 20
  • It affects men and women equally
  • African Americans are at greater risk compared to any other ethnic group
  • There is a strong genetic component with colorectal cancer; therefore, it is very important to know your family’s medical history
  • Women over 75 years are more likely to die of colorectal cancer than breast cancer
  • It can be prevented by removing polyps before cancer starts
  • Symptoms may include change in bowel habits or narrowing of the stool for more than a few days, rectal bleeding, cramping or abdominal pain, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss and fatigue from anemia.
    No matter your age, if you experience any of the symptoms listed, see your physician immediately so the cause can be identified and treated if needed
  • Many people have no symptoms
  • With early detection, survival rates are 80%+

Understanding Colonoscopy - What is a Colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy is the gold standard for detecting colorectal cancer. This simple procedure is performed by a gastroenterologist, who inserts a flexible scope into the rectum and colon to search for abnormal growths (polyps). If found, the polyps are removed and sent for analysis. If a mass compatible with cancer is found, it is biopsied and the patient is referred to a surgeon for treatment. It’s natural to feel embarrassed or anxious about the prospect of having a colonoscopy and to have concerns about any possible discomfort during the procedure. Colonoscopies are completely private and the anesthesia or sedation will help relax you and assist in making you completely comfortable. Afterwards, most patients say the worry was far worse than the prep or the procedure.

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Colonoscopy Preparation

You need to make arrangements in advance for a ride home after your colonoscopy due to any possible lingering effects of the anesthesia or sedation. The day before your colonoscopy you will prepare for the procedure in the privacy of your own home. Complete cleansing of the colon ensures optimal visibility during the procedure.

  • Per your doctor’s instructions, take laxative prep medication (typically just two tablets and two small bottles of liquid)
  • Adhere to a liquid diet

Your Colonoscopy

The total time you will be in the Center is approximately two hours.

  • Arrive one hour prior to your appointment
  • Go to Gastrointestinal Endoscopy Center / GI Unit (Parking B, Zone B, 2nd Floor - Suite 206 of 1635 N. George Mason Drive) to check-in
  • You are escorted to a pre-op room where a nurse conducts the admission process
  • You are then escorted to the procedure room for your colonoscopy
  • Procedure takes less than 30 minutes

After Your Colonoscopy

  • Your vitals are monitored until you are awake and alert
  • 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 feel a little tired afterward and rest at home will help

How to Schedule a Colonoscopy

Prior to your colonoscopy, you must be seen by a gastroenterologist who will:

  • Perform a physical exam
  • Review your medical history
  • Explain how to prepare for your procedure
  • Schedule your colonoscopy

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Colonoscopies are covered by all insurers; however, coverage varies based on your individual plan. Always check with your insurance provider to confirm your specific benefits.

HMO Members

See your primary care physician (PCP) for a referral to a gastroenterologist. If you need a PCP, visit www.virginiahospitalcenter.com, click on “Find A Doctor” and select Primary Care, Family Practice or Internal Medicine from the Select Specialty drop-down box. Our Primary Care practices are currently accepting new patients.

PPO Members

You can either schedule an appointment directly with a gastroenterologist without a referral or ask your PCP for a recommendation.


You may schedule an appointment directly with a gastroenterologist. If you’re covered under a Medicare Advantage Plan, you will need to select a gastroenterologist from your plan’s network.

Colorectal Cancer Treatment

Coming to grips with a colorectal cancer diagnosis is not easy. Standard treatment for colon and rectal cancer is surgery. Choosing the right surgeon is one of the most important decisions a patient will make. Of the 70,000 practicing U.S. surgeons, only 1,300 are colorectal surgeons with advanced training. At Virginia Hospital Center, patients have access to board-certified colorectal surgeon, Craig Rezac, MD, FACS, FASCRS, who leads Virginia Hospital Center Physician Group – Colorectal Surgery.

Patients have access to all the medical specialists involved in the spectrum of colorectal cancer care, including medical oncologists and radiation oncologists. Genetic counseling is also available.

The Cancer Resource Center offers an array of free support services, from individual counseling for patients and families to nutritional consults and help with referrals for equipment and transportation.

The information in this kit is general in nature. Your personal healthcare provider is your best source of medical advice.

Contact Info

Colorectal Surgery

  • Phone: 703.717.4180
  • Fax: 703.717.4181
  • Two Locations:
    1625 N George Mason Dr.
    Suite 334
    Arlington, VA 22205
(Parking A Zone A, 4th floor)


1701 N. George Mason Drive | Arlington, VA 22205-3698 | tel 703.558.5000
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