Colorectal cancer FAQs

Get the answers to your questions about colorectal cancer from HonorHealth experts in the greater Phoenix area.


Q. How do I prepare for a colonoscopy?

A: Preparing for your colonoscopy generally is a two-step process that involves drinking a liquid that cleans the intestines. Usually, you'll drink one portion the evening before your procedure and one portion the morning of your procedure. Properly preparing is the single most important thing you can do for a successful test.


Q. Is there anything I can do to make the prep taste better?

A: Yes, you can mix it with a flavoring agent that's light in color such as Crystal Light, Gatorade or Sprite. Some people also prefer to drink it chilled and/or through a straw.

Q. Will I be sedated?

A: Yes. An anesthesiologist or CRNA (certified registered nurse anesthetist) administers the sedation through an IV before the test begins. You'll be asleep and comfortable for the procedure and won't experience any pain. You may remember getting an IV but not the test, and then wake up in the recovery room. You'll have an opportunity to speak to the physician before the sedation begins.

Q. Will I experience any pain after the test?

A: Probably not, but you may experience some gas, bloating and distension (bulging of the abdomen).

Q. Can I use Uber, Lyft or take a taxi to and from the procedure?

A: No — you may still be groggy from the sedation, so you should have a family member or friend take you home. You should avoid driving, operating machinery, drinking alcohol and making legal decisions for at least 24 hours after the test.

Q. What are the risks associated with colonoscopy?

A: Among the risks are bleeding, infection, perforation of the colon, adverse reaction to medications, cardiopulmonary complications related to anesthesia or splenic injury. All these risks are rare.

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Screening vs. diagnostic colonoscopy

Q. What's the difference between a screening colonoscopy and a diagnostic colonoscopy?

A: You should have a screening colonoscopy to determine if you have colorectal cancer. If you're 50 or older or have a family history of colorectal cancer, a screening colonoscopy is important. African American patients are recommended to have a screening colonoscopy at age 45. Your gastroenterologist will remove any polyps during the screening colonoscopy.

You should have a diagnostic colonoscopy if you have signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer (bleeding, bowel changes, diarrhea, constipation, or weight loss); a history of colon polyps; gastrointestinal disease, such as ulcerative colitis, inflammable bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease; or colon cancer.

Q. What is covered by insurance?

A: Insurance covers both types of colonoscopies, but your financial responsibility is a little different for each. Generally, a screening colonoscopy is covered at 100 percent. A diagnostic colonoscopy usually requires co-insurance, a deductible or a co-pay.

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Q. Will I get nauseated from the anesthesia?

A: Nausea from anesthesia after your colonoscopy is uncommon because the primary medication used has anti-nausea properties. If you have a strong history of postoperative nausea and vomiting, let your anesthesia provider know so that he or she can administer additional drugs for nausea.


Q. I'm afraid of waking up in the middle of the procedure and not being able to move or let anyone know I'm awake. Can this happen during my colonoscopy?

A: No. The anesthesia most commonly administered for colonoscopy is called Monitored Anesthesia Care. That means your anesthesiologist monitors your vital signs every minute throughout the test to ensure you're asleep and comfortable. No paralytic anesthetic medication is used during colonoscopy.

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CT colonography

Q. How do I prepare for this test?

A: Preparation for CT colonography is the same as preparing for a standard colonoscopy. It's generally a two-step process that involves drinking a liquid that cleans the intestines. Usually, you'll drink one portion the evening before your procedure and one portion the morning of the procedures. Properly preparing for the CT colonography is the single most important thing you can do for a successful test.

Q. Is radiation involved?

A: Yes, but the dose is quite small.

Q. How long does the test take?

A: About 15 to 20 minutes.

Q. Will I be sedated?

A: No. You'll be awake during this short test.

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Open access colonoscopy scheduling

Q. What is open access scheduling?

A: Open or direct access colonoscopy is an HonorHealth service that enables healthy, age-appropriate patients who have no gastrointestinal-related issues to easily schedule a screening colonoscopy without first seeing a GI doctor in the office. It saves you time and money. You'll answer a series of questions to determine if you're eligible. If you pass the screening questions, you can be scheduled for the procedure. It saves you time because you don't need to make an appointment with your GI doctor in the office.

Q. How do I go about it?

A: Call 623-780-0100, option 1, for John C. Lincoln and Deer Valley medical offices or 480-882-5740 for the Scottsdale Osborn, Shea and Thompson Peak medical offices.

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Colorectal cancer

Q. What stage is my cancer?

A: Your colorectal doctor will talk with you about the stage of cancer you have. It may be stage I (the least advanced), stage II, stage III or stage IV (the most advanced). The stages relate to how much cancer is in your body.

Q. How will I be treated?

A: The treatment will depend on your stage of cancer. Your doctor will discuss the treatment options available to you, which may include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.


Q. When is chemotherapy required?

A: You may need chemotherapy after surgery, especially if the cancer has spread. Chemotherapy can decrease the chance of the cancer recurring. For rectal cancer, the treatment typically is chemotherapy and radiation (for earlier stages), followed by surgery. Earlier stages often can be cured with only chemo and radiation.

Q. What are my chances for a cure?

A: Generally, the prognosis is good for colorectal cancer because it's a treatable condition. The five-year survival rate for people with stage I colon cancer is about 92 percent. The five-year survival rate for people with stage I rectal cancer is 87 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute.

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Colorectal surgery

Q. What type of cancer do I have?

A: Your colorectal surgeon will let you know where your cancer is located, either in your colon or your rectum.

Q. How will my cancer be removed?

A: Depending on the size and location of the cancer, your surgeon may use robotic, laparoscopic (minimally invasive) or open surgery to remove it. Other factors such as your general health and previous surgeries may affect which surgical method your doctor uses.

Q. Will I need a colostomy bag?

A: Your surgeon will talk with you about whether a colostomy bag is needed based on the size and location of your cancer.

Q. How long will I be in the hospital?

A: Your stay in the hospital will depend on the size of your cancer and the type of surgery you have. A smaller-sized cancer removed robotically or laparoscopically will require a shorter stay than a larger cancer removed through open surgery. Because each case is different, your surgeon will talk with you about your specific circumstances.

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Learn more about colon cancer

Learn more about family history and colon cancer from experts at HonorHealth.

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