Biopsy - Colon

This procedure involves the removal of a suspicious sample of tissue from the colon to check for abnormal, or cancerous, cells.

This procedure involves the removal of a suspicious sample of tissue from the colon to check for abnormal, or cancerous, cells.

A colon biopsy is the removal of a suspicious sample of tissue or polyp from the colon to check for abnormal, or cancerous, cells. Your healthcare provider may do a biopsy of your colon if they see suspicious areas during a screening colonoscopy. It may also be recommended if you have certain symptoms, unexplained anemia, occult (not visible) blood in your stool or other abnormal lab results.

  • Biopsies of the colon are usually done during a colonoscopy.
  • A colonoscopy is an exam of the large intestine (colon) using a thin, lighted tube with a camera on the end.
  • Screening colonoscopies are done to find colon cancer before it causes symptoms. They can reduce your risk of getting colon cancer by removing polyps before they become cancerous.

Many factors can increase your chance of getting colon cancer. Some of the risks factors for colon cancer include:

  • Age – You have a higher risk as you age.
  • Family history – A close family member has had cancer of the colon or has been diagnosed with an inherited syndrome that includes having lots of polyps.
  • Medical history – You have a history of breast cancer, polyps in your colon or inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Race – You are African American or from Eastern Europe.
  • Diet – You eat red meat or meat that is processed. High-fat and low-fiber diets may also play a role in the development of colon cancer. However, the link between colon cancer and low-fiber diets is not clear.
  • Alcohol use – You drink excessive amounts of alcohol.
  • Smoking – You smoke.

Most people should have their first colon cancer screening at age 50. However, screening can be done earlier in individuals who are at high risk for colon cancer. It is important to discuss the right age to begin screening with your healthcare provider. The following screenings can help decrease your risk of developing colon cancer, or diagnose it at a very early (curable) stage:

  • Screening sigmoidoscopy
  • Screening colonoscopy
  • Stool tests for occult (not visible) blood

Having colon cancer screening, which often includes a colonoscopy, can also reduce your risk of dying from colon cancer.

Lifestyle changes can help decrease your chance of developing colon cancer. These include:

  • Limiting your alcohol intake
  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Eating a low fat and high fiber diet

If your healthcare provider recommends a colon biopsy, prior to the procedure you should tell him/her about any medications you are taking (including over-the-counter medications and supplements). Some medicines can interfere with the colonoscopy preparation or the exam. The day before the exam, you will drink only clear liquids and take medicine to clean out your bowels. Ask about other specific instructions you should follow before and after the procedure. These include:

  • Medications you should not take before the procedure, such as blood thinners
  • Regular medications you should continue to take on the day of your procedure
  • How many hours you should stop eating and drinking before the procedure

Just before the test, you may be given a medicine that makes you relaxed and sleepy (a sedative) or one that puts you to sleep (anesthesia).

Contact your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of colon cancer. Be prepared to discuss your symptoms and how long you have had them.

  • Bring a copy of your medical history (past illnesses, surgeries, and hospitalizations).
  • Make a list of your medications (including over-the-counter).
  • Write down any questions, symptoms or concerns you want to talk about.
  • If your healthcare provider prescribes a medication for you, ask for a generic version. If your doctor thinks that a generic version is not right for you, ask for a medication on the lowest available tier of your Prescription Drug List (PDL).

What should I ask my healthcare provider before having a colon biopsy?

  • What is my diagnosis and reason for the procedure? Are there any alternatives? What are the benefits and risks of each?
  • What are the possible complications for this procedure?
  • What happens if I do not go through with the procedure?
  • What is your experience in doing this type of procedure? What is your complication rate?
  • Is there any special preparation for the procedure? (If so, get clear instructions on what you need to do.)
  • Will I need anesthesia? What are the possible side effects?
  • How will I feel after the procedure? Will I have to modify my activity?

Do not forget to arrange for transportation to and from the facility and for help at home.

After your procedure, you should know what you had done, what medication was given and what symptoms you should report to your healthcare provider after discharge. Make sure you understand all home care instructions (including medications and side effects) and follow-up plans. Your surgeon should also communicate with your primary care physician.


Also known as:

Colon Biopsy
Biopsy Colon
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