A colonoscopy is an important screening test for colorectal cancer. It can also help diagnose or treat certain symptoms and conditions. In some cases, a medical condition, older age, or pregnancy may mean a person has to cancel or reschedule.

Healthcare professionals advise against canceling a colonoscopy. However, if a person needs to cancel or reschedule the procedure, they should contact a healthcare professional to determine the next steps.

This article examines why someone may need to cancel or reschedule a colonoscopy.

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Sometimes, a colonoscopy may be unsuitable due to certain medical conditions. Reasons that someone may need to cancel a colonoscopy may include the following:

  • a recent heart attack
  • peritonitis, which refers to inflammation in the lining of the abdomen
  • hemodynamic instability, which refers to typical blood pressure
  • recent surgery with colonic anastomosis — a type of surgical procedure involved in colectomy
  • bowel injury and repair

If people have any of these medical conditions, they can speak with a doctor to discuss the next steps. Generally, individuals may need to wait at least 6 weeks before undergoing a colonoscopy.

Being pregnant

According to a 2020 case study, it is important to consider the potential risks and benefits of a colonoscopy if a person is pregnant. The case study concludes that the final decision lies with the pregnant individual.

A 2021 systematic review states that previous research suggests a colonoscopy may be safe in the second trimester. Otherwise, this screening may only be suitable during pregnancy if there is a strong indication of cancer.

Being over the age of 85

The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all adults aged 50–75 years undergo screening for colorectal cancer.

For adults aged 76–85 years, evidence suggests there is minimal benefit for screening in this age group. For adults in this age category, screening may be best on a case-by-case basis.

However, a 2021 study found that continuing screening for adults older than 75 years has links to a reduced risk of colorectal cancer and related death.

The American Cancer Society recommends that people over the age of 85 do not receive colorectal cancer screening.

People may need to reschedule a colonoscopy if the colonoscopy prep did not work as healthcare professionals intended. This is because the colon needs to be clean for a colonoscopy to be effective.

People may also need to reschedule a colonoscopy if they have active inflammation. This may include inflammation due to:

A colonoscopy may increase the risk of injury to inflamed or easily irritated tissues, increasing the risk of bleeding or perforation.

If suitable, people may need to wait until the inflammation lessens before having a colonoscopy. They can talk with a doctor to discuss the best time frame.

If a person has canceled a colonoscopy, they need to speak with a doctor to reschedule the procedure for a suitable time.

If someone is unsure whether they are suitable for a colonoscopy, they can consult a doctor to discuss next steps.

The American Cancer Society recommends the following individuals undergo colorectal cancer screening, which may include a colonoscopy:

  • people aged 45–75, with an average risk of colorectal cancer, will need regular screenings
  • people aged 76–85 may attend screenings according to their personal preference, health, life expectancy, and medical history

People may need to begin screening before the age of 45 if they have an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

A doctor may also recommend a colonoscopy to help diagnose the cause of a range of symptoms, such as bleeding, inflammation, or abdominal pain. Additionally, a colonoscopy can aid in removing large colon polyps or treating bleeding.

The following are answers to common questions about colonoscopies.

Can a person refuse a colonoscopy?

It is up to individuals if they decide to proceed with a colonoscopy. Doctors cannot carry them out if a person refuses.

At-home tests are an alternative to a screening colonoscopy, but people will need to do these regularly every 1–3 years. If these tests show any abnormalities, people will then need to have a colonoscopy.

If people have any family history or risk of colorectal cancer or signs and symptoms of the disease, they need to have a colonoscopy rather than alternative screening options.

A colonoscopy is generally safe and a common procedure that is important for finding and treating early signs of colorectal cancer.

Should a person cancel or rearrange a colonoscopy if they have a cold?

If people have a cold, people should call the facility before having the procedure. A mild cold may be fine, but if they have a fever or a cough with mucus or phlegm, they may have to reschedule.

Should a person cancel or rearrange a colonoscopy if they are on their period?

People can still have a colonoscopy while menstruating. They can wear a tampon during the procedure if they feel more comfortable, but a pad is not suitable.

If possible, people should aim to reschedule a colonoscopy instead of canceling, as it is an important and effective tool in finding and preventing colorectal cancer.

If people have any doubts about whether they need to reschedule their colonoscopy appointment, they should contact the doctor for more information.

Severe illness or pregnancy may mean a person is unsuitable for a colonoscopy, but people will need to talk with a doctor if they have any risk factors or symptoms.

If a person is older than 75 years, they may want to consult a doctor about whether they recommend colonoscopy screening.