Australian Government Department of Health
National Bowel Cancer Screening Program
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Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy is a procedure to examine the bowel. People who receive a positive FOBT result will generally be referred for a colonoscopy.

What happens if the FOBT result is positive?

People who received a positive FOBT result will be advised to discuss the result with their doctor, who will generally refer them for further tests, usually a colonoscopy.

What does a colonoscopy involve?

A colonoscopy is a procedure to examine the bowel.

Further information on colonoscopy can be found on the Gastroenterological Society of Australia website or from the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program’s Colonoscopy Brochure.

Are there any risks from a colonoscopy?

Complications from colonoscopy may occur. Serious complications may include perforation (making a hole) of the bowel wall (about 1 in 1,000 examinations) and/or major bleeding from the bowel (about 3 in 1,000 examinations).

People may also experience a poor reaction to the bowel preparation and/or to the sedatives/anaesthetic. Rare side effects can occur with any procedure. Death is a remote possibility.

As with any medical procedure, people should discuss the risks and benefits of colonoscopy with their doctor before consenting to the procedure.

Where can a person have a colonoscopy?

Colonoscopies are generally performed in a hospital or day clinic by a specialist, following referral from a doctor.

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What happens if a bowel cancer is detected?

If bowel cancer is detected, surgery is usually required. If the cancer is found at an early stage, the chance of a full recovery is high. Most people will be able to return to their current lifestyle.

What if the colonoscopy doesn’t show anything?

A clear colonoscopy means that no polyps or cancerous growths were detected. This means that there is a low risk of developing bowel cancer within the next ten years. Medical experts advise that another FOBT is completed in five years time. No test is 100% accurate, however, so if, in the meantime, people develop any of the symptoms of bowel cancer they should see their doctor as soon as possible.

Page currency, Latest update: 15 November, 2013