Colonoscopy Services Overview
Colon and rectal (colorectal) cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. However, thanks to early detection and advanced treatments, more and more Americans are preventing and surviving colorectal cancer.
Many forms of colorectal cancer stem from abnormal growths, known as polyps, which are easily removed during a colonoscopy screening. Northwestern Medicine is home to skilled, caring endoscopy specialists1 who provide both routine and advanced colonoscopy services to prevent, diagnose and treat colorectal cancer.
The board-certified physicians of Northwestern Medicine encourage you to get your colonoscopy screening at one of our locations.
When to Get Screened
Colon screening is recommended for all average-risk men and women at the age of 50 (though the American Cancer Society recommends beginning screening at age 452).
However, if you have a family history of colorectal cancer, have an inflammatory condition or are African American, you should begin screening earlier.
Talk to your primary care provider to determine when to begin screening.
Why Colonoscopy Is Important
A colonoscopy is a simple and effective way to check for colon cancer and to remove suspicious colon polyps.
Polyps in the colon can become cancerous. Removing polyps during a colonoscopy helps prevent the development of colorectal cancer.
Once a polyp turns into cancer, it can grow for years before symptoms occur. Early-stage colorectal cancers can be detected through colonoscopy when no symptoms are present, making it easier for your physician to treat and cure your cancer.
Do not avoid colonoscopy just because you have no symptoms. If colonoscopy is only performed after you have symptoms of colorectal cancer, treatment is far more complicated, and your chances of surviving the disease are significantly reduced.
Your Colonoscopy Experience
When you are ready to have a colonoscopy, the teams at Northwestern Medicine will work to ensure your procedure is as safe, effective and pleasant as possible. Spacious endoscopy suites feature the latest technology, allowing high-quality detection and removal of polyps. Personal preparation and recovery bays offer comfort and privacy.
During a colonoscopy, a colonoscope — a thin, lighted tube ― is inserted into your body through your rectum. A camera at the end of this tube transmits images, allowing your physician to examine your entire colon and rectum. If polyps are found, they can be easily and effectively removed.
While a colonoscopy is an excellent cancer screening tool, your physician may also order the procedure if you are experiencing abdominal pain, bowel changes, weight loss, anemia or other symptoms.
Benefits to You
Whether used for screening or to help diagnose your colon and rectal health, a colonoscopy provides vital information and the ability to:
- Identify and remove any potentially cancerous polyps
- Assess changes in bowel habits
- Detect inflammation and diseases
- Find the cause of bleeding or pain
- Confirm your lower intestines are in good health
Talk to your physician about your risk for colorectal cancer and whether you should have a colonoscopy.
Quality in Colonoscopy
Quality measures are a key part of providing better medicine. Northwestern Medicine has made quality in colonoscopy a priority so that we can provide the best outcomes for patients while also exceeding national benchmarks.
At Northwestern Medicine, the Digestive Health Center Multidisciplinary Quality Committee is composed of physician, nursing and hospital administration leadership. This group meets monthly to help ensure that we are providing a quality endoscopic examination that is comfortable and effective. Consistent effort is required to ensure that these goals are met each day with each patient.
As leaders in endoscopic quality, Northwestern Medicine participates in multiple ongoing research studies. This research has the potential to not only impact the quality of care at Northwestern Medicine, but also around the world.