We are here to help you prepare for your GI procedure
As common as it is to undergo a colonoscopy, you may still have serious questions if this is the first time your provider has recommended the procedure for you. It can help put you at ease to understand what to expect, and how to prepare.
The purpose of a colonoscopy
A colonoscopy is commonly used as a screening tool to detect colorectal cancer, which is colon cancer or rectal cancer. It is also used to diagnose problematic symptoms that include: bleeding from the rectum; changes in bowel movements (constipation or diarrhea); abdominal pain or unexplained weight loss.
If you choose an alternative screening test for colorectal cancer, instead of a colonoscopy, and the test results are positive, you will be asked to schedule a colonoscopy as a follow-up diagnostic test. Examples of other screening tests include stool tests, flexible sigmoidoscopies, multi-targeted stool DNA tests or computerized tomography (CT) colonographies. However, only during a colonoscopy can colon polyps, growths on the surface of the colon, not only be detected but also removed, reducing the risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Preparing for your colonoscopy: What happens before and after
So how long does a colonoscopy take? Not long at all, for the procedure itself. In fact, the typical colonoscopy takes less than an hour, and may take as little as 15-30 minutes. When you factor in the prep time and recovery time, the full experience takes longer.
What to expect the day before your colonoscopy
Leading up to the colonoscopy, you will need to follow a special diet and clear out your bowels, usually with the assistance of laxatives.
You may find the preparation process uncomfortable because cleaning out your colon usually involves experiencing diarrhea, but the preparation doesn’t hurt and isn’t painful. The colonoscopy prep drink you take the day before your procedure will be part of a bowel-cleansing regimen your provider selects based on your medications and your medical history. Your previous experiences with colonoscopy may also indicate to your doctor which prep drink will be the most safe and effective for you to use.
The good news? Colonoscopy prep drinks taste far better today than the options that previously existed. Your prep drink may even contain friendly and familiar brand name products such as MiraLAX®, Gatorade®, Propel® or Crystal Light.® Your provider will give you instructions to explain how to properly take your prep drink and prepare for your colonoscopy.
What to expect the day of your colonoscopy
Your comfort and safety are our top priorities, and we aim to deliver a positive experience before, during and after your colonoscopy. You will be requested to arrive early the day of your colonoscopy in order to receive sedation. If you are deeply sedated, you will not be awake during a colonoscopy and should experience no pain. You may not even remember the procedure. Throughout your procedure, a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) or anesthesia professional will keep a close eye on your vitals and sedation levels.
Even if you have a colon polyp removed, sedation makes the procedure, called a polypectomy, possible without pain. There are different types of polyps, and they can be either benign, pre-malignant or even cancerous. Polyps can be removed during a colonoscopy, unless they are too large, and then they may need to be removed surgically at a later date.
Here are 5 quick tips to help the day of your colonoscopy go smoothly:
- Arrive on time for your appointment: You don’t want to miss your colonoscopy after all of your preparations. It’s a good idea to arrive at least 15 minutes early for your appointment, so be sure to plan ahead for traffic or unexpected delays.
- Bring the essentials: You will need a current ID and any insurance cards you want the office to have on file for you. It can also be helpful to bring a list of your current medications, allergies and medical history information so that you don’t forget anything important when you review this information with your doctor or nurses before the procedure.
- Wear comfortable clothing: You will be grateful for loose-fitting, comfortable clothes and socks to help you stay warm. You will be changing in and out of a hospital gown for the procedure, and tight-fitting or cumbersome clothing can make this more difficult, particularly after sedation.
- Leave valuables at home: You will be asked to remove jewelry for the procedure and might feel more comfortable and secure knowing your valuables are safe at home. You also might feel a bit groggy from sedation and don’t want to forget any of your items, so bringing only the necessities means less to keep track of on the day of your colonoscopy.
- Arrange a ride home: For your safety, a friend or family member must drive you home from your procedure. You won’t be allowed to leave the hospital in the care of an Uber® or Lyft® driver, so planning ahead will make sure you can return to the comfort of your home without any unnecessary delays.
What to expect after your colonoscopy
After a colonoscopy, you will need to recover from the effects of the sedation, which usually wear off within 30 minutes, and you may need to rest after your colonoscopy preparations.
You may experience some discomfort and mild pain in the abdominal area as air is relieved from the procedure and leaves your colon. If you had a polypectomy, depending on the extent of the polyps removed, your recovery may take longer, up to 2 weeks, with some bleeding to be expected. In those cases, your doctor can provide pain medication to address any discomfort.
Concerning symptoms that you would want to contact your provider about immediately include:
- Significant or persistent pain
- Unexpected bleeding
Why colonoscopy is important
Colorectal cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S, and colonoscopies are an important and effective tool for detecting and preventing colorectal cancer. Even when you are at the peak of health, colonoscopies are considered essential preventive care.
As the tragic death of “Black Panther” actor Chadwick Boseman at age 43 so clearly demonstrated, colon cancer doesn’t discriminate based on age, race or social status. Boseman learned he had stage 3 colon cancer in 2016 and died at his home in August of 2020.
As the famous saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” A colonoscopy can literally save your life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a colonoscopy screening is recommended every 10 years for patients age 45 to age 75. Colonoscopy is a common procedure for patients of that age, but as with every procedure, possible complications can occur that can be serious. That is why it is important to work with a provider you trust.
Request an appointment today with our experienced specialists to learn more and schedule your colonoscopy.