Slow and steady wins the colon screening "race"

It's the most important part of the colonoscopy -- the time when the doctor actually looks for and removes potentially dangerous growths, polyps, from the colon.

If there's a time when a doc should slow down and pay attention, this is it.

Yet too many doctors rush through the procedure, taking the absolute minimum recommended time of six minutes. These doctors are probably confident... they probably believe they're really good at what they do... and I'm sure they think they can do the job just as well when they work fast.

But a new study shows otherwise.

When doctors spend just six minutes, they miss growths. And when they take their time, they do the job right.

For every minute after 6, the likelihood of spotting and removing adenomas rises by 50 percent. And for every minute past the 6-minute mark, the odds of finding clinically significant serrated polyps jumps by 77 percent.

The numbers level off at the 9-minute mark, according to the study.

In other words, a doc who spends less than 9 minutes could be missing polyps and other growths -- and every growth he misses is one that could someday hurt or even kill you.

Clearly, you want a doctor willing to take his time. But since you'll be under general anesthesia, you won't really know how long he takes.

That's why it's important to choose a good doctor who you can trust to do the job right. One option is to get a recommendation not just from a friend, but from someone in the know. Try asking your doctor -- but don't just ask him for a referral.

Ask him who he sees for his colonoscopy.

Along with making sure you find a doctor willing to take his time, also make sure you choose the right time for your procedure.

And that means waking up early.

Studies have shown that doctors are more likely to spot polyps earlier in the day -- and as the day goes on, they get less accurate.

Choosing an early-morning procedure comes with two other advantages. First, you don't spend the day dreading the looming colonoscopy. And second, since you can't eat until after the screening, you don't have to suffer from hunger.

Finally, choose a real colonoscopy instead of a virtual one. Virtual procedures are less accurate and use radiation -- and if the doctor spots any growths, you have to undergo a real colonoscopy to remove it anyway.