What to Expect from Your Colonoscopy - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on March 02, 2015

What to Expect from Your Colonoscopy

Crozer-Keystone Health SystemMedia Contact:
Katrina Stier
(610) 447-6314
Katrina.Stier@crozer.org

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A colonoscopy is considered the gold standard screening method for colon cancer. That’s because doctors can identify and remove polyps or other types of abnormalities during the procedure. That means having a colonoscopy can remove or catch colon cancer early.

Despite the health pay-off of having a colonoscopy, many people still shy away from the procedure. One in three adults between the ages 50 and 75 years isn’t getting the recommended tests for colon cancer. One possible reason for people skipping out on this screening can be fear of the unknown and thinking it will be painful and uncomfortable.

In order to shed some light on the procedure, here’s what you can expect of a colonoscopy.

Before the procedure…

For a day or two before your colonoscopy, your physician will put you on a clear liquid-only diet and recommend the use of laxatives. This is done to ensure the colon in clean and free of any residue that may obscure your doctor’s view during the exam. While this bowel preparation may be unpleasant, it isn’t painful.

During the procedure…

Your physician likely will give you a sedative and possibly combine it with pain medication. This will prevent you from feeling any pain or discomfort during the colonoscopy. Many patients actually sleep during the exam and don’t have any memory of it after the fact.

You will begin your exam lying on your side, typically with your knees pulled toward your chest. The procedure involves the doctor inserting a colonoscope into the rectum. The scope is a long, flexible tube that is long enough to reach the entire length of the colon. It has a tiny video camera at the tip of it, which allows the doctor to view the inside of the entire colon. The colonoscope also pumps air into the colon, which inflates it and gives the doctor a better view of the lining of the colon. This scope also allows the doctor to remove polyps and tissue samples, which are tested to determine if they’re cancerous.

A colonoscopy typically takes between 20 minutes and an hour to complete.

After the procedure…

Once your physician finishes your exam, it will take about an hour for you to begin to recover from the sedative. Since it can take up to a day for the full effects of the sedative to wear off, you will need someone to take you home. You won’t be able to drive or go back to work after your exam.

For a few hours after your procedure, you might feel bloated or pass gas due to the air that was pumped into the colon.

If your doctor removed a polyp during your procedure, you might have to temporarily eat a special diet.

Colon cancer has a 90 percent survival rate if it gets detected early. While the procedure isn’t exactly fun, it can help ensure you live a longer and healthier life, free of colon cancer.

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