What Is the Relationship between Colonoscopy and Endoscopy?

Kathy Heydasch

A colonoscopy and endoscopy refer to virtually the same type of procedure, but the difference is the part of the body being examined. A colonoscopy is simply a specialized type of an endoscopy. Both are methods of looking inside the body with a small tube called an endoscope, but a colonoscopy focuses specifically on examining the colon.

Endoscopy equipment.
Endoscopy equipment.

In both a colonoscopy and endoscopy, the rigid or flexible tube used in the procedure is called an endoscope. The endoscope may have a camera on the end and some means of lighting the internal organs or paths taken by the tube. In addition, it has a built-in means of transmitting the image back to the doctor or technician evaluating the colonoscopy and endoscopy.

Doctors use an endoscope to conduct internal examinations.
Doctors use an endoscope to conduct internal examinations.

The goal of both procedures is to retrieve as much information as possible while being as minimally invasive as possible. In many cases, surgery can be avoided through the use of one of these techniques, or the procedures may reveal valuable information that dictates that surgery is the only option to cure whatever is ailing the patient. There are minor risks involved in a colonoscopy and endoscopy. These include soreness at the site of entry, internal or external infections, and occasional side effects of sedation.

An endoscope has a light and camera, and can include other features as well.
An endoscope has a light and camera, and can include other features as well.

In a colonoscopy, an endoscope is inserted through the anus to examine the colon and small bowel. The endoscope will illuminate the inside of the body and allow for the diagnosis of ulcerations or polyps within the colon. The procedure also allows for the biopsy of suspect lesions in the colon. In some cases, the lesions can be removed altogether.

An endoscopy in general can have many different applications. One of the most common is a gastrointestinal tract (GI) endoscopy. The GI endoscopy can examine the stomach, esophagus, duodenum, small intestine, large intestine (colonoscopy) and bile duct. The anus and rectum can also both be magnified and examined using an endoscope.

The respiratory tract, ears, urinary tracts, and the female reproductive system are also common targets for endoscopies. While pregnant, an endoscope can be used to examine the amnion (called an amnioscopy) and the fetus itself (fetoscopy). These procedures typically do not require any type of incision, but the examination of some organs or closed cavities may require a small surgical cut. Such is the case with inspection of the pelvic or abdominal cavity (laparoscopy), a joint (arthroscopy), or organs of the chest (mediastinoscopy or thoracoscopy).

A colonoscopy focuses specifically on examining the colon.
A colonoscopy focuses specifically on examining the colon.

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Discussion Comments


What is the percentage of the damage done with this type of surgery? What is the cure rate of the success rate of doing it if you do find a polyp? If it's malignant, it has probably spread. It seems like it's just a way to generate a lot of money. What does that mean? What is the success rate of colonoscopies? How many actually lead to be a limitation and/or cancer and then probably, most importantly, how do you get rid of the cancer if you find out it's malignant?


Both my husband's mother and father passed away from colon cancer, so preparing for a colonoscopy is something that he is very familiar with. Many times this type of cancer can be treated successfully if it is caught early.

Also, if you know you have this history in your family, you can make dietary changes that may help prevent this disease. Having a colonoscopy if never a fun thing to think about, but the peace of mind is worth the time, trouble and cost.


It is amazing what they can see and discover with a tube that has a camera attached to it. If you have a history of colon cancer in your family, many times your doctor will recommend a screening colonoscopy earlier than the age of 50.

My mother had colon cancer, so I had to begin screenings at the age of 45. They wanted to begin testing me 10 years before the age she was first diagnosed. I then have to follow up and have a colonoscopy every five years.

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