At Swedish, colonoscopy is performed thousands of times a year by colorectal surgeons and gastroenterologists, making Swedish's colorectal cancer screening program the largest in the Northwest.

When should I get a colonoscopy?

The American Cancer Society recommends:

  • Those at normal risk for colorectal cancer get screened starting at age 45*
  • People with a family history of the disease may need to start even younger (If you have a first-degree relative that had colorectal cancer before age 50, you’d usually start 10 years younger than they were when they were diagnosed with colorectal cancer.)

*Patients should check with their insurance company to confirm coverage.

How long does a colonoscopy take?

This procedure takes approximately 30 minutes. It allows the physician to examine the inside of the rectum and the entire colon using a colonoscope. A colonoscope has a light and lens for viewing. It also has a tool to remove polyp tissue (or, if necessary during the colonoscopy, the entire polyp).

Where is it performed?

Colonoscopy is performed in an outpatient setting. To make the procedure as comfortable as possible, you will be given a sedative. You will lay on your left side with knees drawn up to your chest. Blood pressure, heart rate and breathing are monitored during and after the test. The physician will gently insert the lubricated colonoscope into the rectum for a thorough examination of the rectum and colon.

Like most colorectal screenings, colonoscopy requires that your colon be completely empty. A combination of liquid diet and laxatives may be prescribed to cleanse the colon before the procedure.

To ensure a successful procedure, please carefully follow the preparation instructions provided by your doctor's office. You MUST have a responsible adult drive you home from your appointment.

Preparation instructions may vary by patient and type of procedure, so it is important to only use the instructions indicated by your doctor. Please call your doctor's office with any questions about proper preparation instructions.

Dr. Rodney Kratz, a colorectal surgeon at Swedish documented his personal experience of the prep process on video to share with others.