Uncommon questions you should ask before getting a colonoscopy
You finally made the decision. You’re getting that screening colonoscopy your physician has been recommending. But what do you need to know before your first exam? And what questions should you be asking your doctor before you schedule the procedure?
A colonoscopy is a safe and effective test to look inside your colon for polyps or other GI-related health issues. Polyps left in the colon can result in cancer.
Your colonoscopy will be performed by a gastroenterologist, a physician who specializes in digestive health issues. Dr. Timothy Laurie, a gastroenterologist at the Center for Digestive Health at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., suggests you ask a few questions when scheduling the procedure.
“Quality matters in health care,” says Dr. Laurie. “People should be asking about their gastroenterologist’s skill level in providing a careful and thorough examination of the colon. I highly recommend that patients feel free to speak up and ask questions.”
Some questions Dr. Laurie and the American College of Gastroenterology recommend asking before your colonoscopy include:
- What is the adenoma detection rate for the gastroenterologist doing my procedure? Adenomas are the pre-cancerous polyps that your doctor will identify during colonoscopy procedures. The detection rate should be at least 25 percent for male patients and 15 percent for female patients. These rates are a reflection of the physician’s skill in performing a high quality exam.
- What is the gastroenterologist’s colonoscopy withdrawal time? This indicates how long the physician takes to remove the scope after reaching the beginning of the colon. It is one factor in ensuring a thorough exam. Higher detection rates come with a withdrawal time of at least 6 minutes.
Dr. Laurie also recommends asking these questions after the colonoscopy:
- Did I have a good bowel prep? The lining of the colon should be clean during a colonoscopy. Gastroenterologists rate the prep from excellent to poor. The better your rating, the better the quality of the procedure. If you rating is fair or poor, ask your doctor about whether he or she recommends another exam.
- When do I come back, and does that timeline coincide with current medical guidelines? After your colonoscopy, be sure to ask when you should return for the next one. If there was a polyp or polyps detected, you should ask, “Do I need follow-up testing? When should I come back for my next routine colonoscopy?”
“Most gastroenterologists can easily answer these questions,” says Dr. Laurie. “The fact that consumers have higher expectations of their physicians is a good thing. Don’t be afraid to ask.”
About the Author
Evonne Woloshyn, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. Evonne began her career as an anchor and reporter in broadcast news. Over the past 20 years, she has worked in health care marketing in both Ohio and Illinois. Evonne loves to travel, spend time with family and is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan!