Colonoscopy Overview


Colonoscopy is a diagnostic endoscopic procedure used to examine the large intestine for polyps, ulcerations, diverticulitis and early signs of colorectal cancer – the third leading cause of cancer death in both women and men in the United States. In the procedure, a surgeon inserts a long, flexible lighted tube called an endoscope through the rectum into the colon. With colonoscopy, the surgeon also can determine the source of symptoms including bleeding, inflamed tissue, and ulcers. During the colonoscopy, the surgeon also may use the endoscope to irrigate or suction the bowel, inject air or remove tissue for further examination, or in preparation for colorectal cancer treatment or a polypectomy.

For patients in the greater Boston area and the New England region, the Endoscopy Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) offers colonoscopy in a state-of-the-art medical facility that is recognized as one of the leading endoscopic centers in the country.

Learn more about colonoscopy at BWH.

Brigham and Women's Hospital: leaders in colonoscopy and colorectal disease treatment.

The Endoscopy Center at BWH offers inpatient and outpatient evaluations, including colonoscopy and gastrointestinal endoscopy, as well as endoscopic treatment for disorders of the colon, small bowel, stomach, esophagus and biliary/pancreatic system. The Center is one of only 17 programs in the world designated as a Center of Excellence by the World Organization of Digestive Endoscopy. As part of the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Endoscopy at BWH, the Center is committed to continually advancing the field of gastroenterology diagnosis and treatment, through research to develop safer and more innovative methods and technologies.

For patients requiring colonoscopy, BWH offers two convenient locations in the greater Boston area: one at our main campus at 75 Francis Street in Boston's Longwood Medical area, and the second at the BWH Ambulatory Care Center at 850 Boylston Street in Chestnut Hill.

When is a colonoscopy needed?

While a surgeon may recommend a colonoscopy for a variety of reasons, The American Cancer Society recommends that both men and women undergo a colonoscopy every 10 years, beginning at age 50. Persons with a personal history or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal cancer surgery, as well as persons with chronic inflammatory bowel disease, are advised to get a colonoscopy at an earlier age and to be screened more frequently. Colonoscopy can lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment of cancer, with initial treatment often colon cancer surgery or rectal cancer surgery. Regular colonoscopy screenings and treatment in the early stages of colorectal cancer often lead to a better prognosis.

Learn more about Colonoscopy and other Endoscopic Gastrointestinal Procedures at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

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