Receiving the results of your colonoscopy
  1. Immediately after. Usually someone from the team who carried out the colonoscopy will give you a brief description of the results.  Depending on the medication used for the colonoscopy you may be sedated (sleepy) and will not remember well.  It is often helpful to have someone with you who can listen to the results and pass them on to you.  Some colonoscopy services will provide you with written results.
  2. If some samples were sent to pathology. It takes about two weeks or more for the results to reach the colonoscopy doctor and your family doctor.  You can get more information about the results by speaking to your doctor.
  3. Immediate follow-up. The results from the colonoscopy will provide helpful information for any follow up treatment that is needed.  Discuss any recommended follow up with the colonoscopy team.
  4. Future colonoscopy. Depending on the results of the colonoscopy, your doctors may suggest a follow up colonoscopy.  When this is recommended depends on the results of the colonoscopy and your medical history. Discuss this with the colonoscopy doctor or your family doctor.
Understanding the results of your colonoscopy
Colonoscopies help doctors diagnose possible causes of rectal bleeding, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal problems. In Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, colonoscopy is also used to assess colon inflammation.

Colonoscopies are used to screen (check) for colon polyps and early signs of colon cancer. Most polyps are harmless, but some can turn into cancer if they’re not removed. On average, one in fifteen (7%) Canadians will get colon cancer. Most often this happens at an older age. Screening for colon cancer decreases the risk of developing and dying from colon cancer. A colon cancer is detected in about 2 to 6 out of every 1000 people older than 50 having a colonoscopy.

If your doctor removes a polyp or polyps or takes tissue samples to help with diagnosis, the samples are sent to a laboratory for review under the microscope by a medical specialist called a pathologist.
Other colonoscopy findings
Here are some of the other possibilities based on the doctor’s observation of your bowel through the colonoscopy camera.
About 3 to 5 out of every 10 persons older than 50 will have a polyp seen on their colonoscopy.  Usually polyps are removed as this reduces the risk of developing bowel cancer over the years. Some polyps have a low risk of eventually developing into cancer.  Others have a higher risk.  The number, size, and kind of polyp along with other factors such as your family history, all influence when it is recommended that you have another colonoscopy.  Follow up may be after one, three, five, or ten years.

The pathology report that comes two weeks or more after the colonoscopy tells the colonoscopy doctor and your family doctor the diagnosis, in each of the samples, to help manage your care.  If you have questions about polyps that are removed it is helpful to ask your doctor.  For more information see the information on colon polyps.
In diverticulosis, small pouches or bulges (called diverticula) develop in the colon. This condition is very common in older adults. Most people with diverticulosis never have any symptoms from this condition. Occasionally the pockets may become inflamed in a condition called diverticulitis, which typically causes abdominal (stomach) pain and fevers. Rarely, these pockets may bleed, which is seen as blood mixed with stools or in the toilet bowl. Anyone with these symptoms should seek medical attention.
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins near the lower end of the colon (the anal canal). This is a common condition, especially in older adults, that may cause bleeding. There are several treatments available for symptomatic hemorrhoids that you can discuss with your doctor.  Often the condition will clear up with no treatment or symptomatic treatment such as the use of hemorrhoid cream available at the pharmacy and avoiding excessive straining for bowel movements.
Anal fissure:
An anal fissure is a crack or tear in the moist tissue that lines the anus. An anal fissure may occur when passing hard or large stools during a bowel movement. Anal fissures often cause pain and bleeding with bowel movements.

Anal fissures can affect people of any age. Most anal fissures get better with simple treatments, such as increased fiber intake or sitz baths (a bath where you sit in the bathtub and soak in warm water). Some people with anal fissures may need medication or, occasionally, surgery.
Angiodysplasia (small blood vessel abnormality):
Angiodysplasia is a condition where some small blood vessels are dilated or larger than normal.  It is often a cause of bleeding from the colon in adults over age 60.  While the condition is seen in about 1 of 100 adults over age 50 it often does not cause any symptoms.  If it does not cause bleeding in the bowel it does not require any specific treatment.  If it does cause bleeding it is often treated by cauterization (using heat to burn and seal the bleeding area) during colonoscopy.
Colon cancer:
Colon cancer is more common in older people. Persons over age 65 are most likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer.  Having a close family member (parent, brother or sister) who developed colon cancer is also associated with increased risk.  Common symptoms of colon cancer are passing blood in the stool and developing anemia (low hemoglobin levels) which can be associated with fatigue. Most people with early colon cancer have no symptoms.  Over a person’s lifetime the risk of dying from colon cancer is modest.  About 30 in 1000 people will die from colon cancer.  A colon cancer is detected in about 2 to 6 out  of every 1000 people older than 50 having a colonoscopy.
Previously diagnosed health condition:
If you have a previously diagnosed health condition, such as celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis), in addition to observing the condition of your bowel, your doctor may take samples of the bowel wall for more detailed evaluation under a microscope by a specialist in pathology.