If the word “colonoscopy” makes you cringe, you’re not alone. But the truth is, it’s an essential part of maintaining your overall health and wellness, especially if you’re approaching 50 or older.
There are a lot of reasons why people avoid a colonoscopy: embarrassment, fear, stigma, lack of information, and more. But the best way to overcome most of these barriers is to be informed and know what to expect.
We’re here to walk you through what you’ll likely experience before, during and after your colonoscopy.
Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to prepare for a colonoscopy, which are important to read carefully and follow. These instructions will likely include information about:
- How to take a laxative or drink a special fluid to help clean out your colon.
- Restrictions on eating or drinking anything after midnight on the day of your screening.
- Making transportation/caregiver arrangements to return home after your outpatient procedure.
After you arrive at the hospital and it’s time for your exam:
- You will be asked to remove any jewelry or other objects that might get in the way during the procedure.
- You will likely be asked to remove your clothing and given a gown to wear.
- You will be given relaxing (sedating) medicine through an IV line. You may be drowsy or fully asleep.
- You will usually be asked to lie on your left side with your knees pulled up towards your chest.
- Air may be injected into your bowel during the procedure. This makes it easier to see the inside surfaces. A gentle water jet may also be used to clean the lining of your colon, and a suction device may be used to remove any liquid stool.
- The doctor will check your colon and may take photos. If a polyp is seen, it may be removed, or, if it’s larger, it may be left until another procedure can be scheduled.
The colonoscopy procedure usually takes 30 minutes. Once your procedure is finished:
- You will be taken to the recovery room to be monitored. Your recovery process will depend on the type of sedative you received.
- Once your blood pressure, pulse and breathing are stable and you are awake and alert, you will be released to go home.
- Your doctor may discuss the results of your exam right away, or a follow-up visit may be required.
- After you’re discharged, your caregiver will drive you home.
Once you’re home, there are a few things to consider:
- You may have gas right after the test, but please know that this is normal. Walking and moving about may help to ease any mild gas pain.
- You can usually eat whatever you feel you can tolerate after the procedure. Some people find it helpful to start with small, bland meals.
- You should not drink alcohol for at least 24 hours. You may be asked to drink extra fluids to make sure you don’t get dehydrated.
While it’s perfectly normal to greet your colonoscopy with apprehension, we hope learning more about what to expect puts your mind at ease. Colonoscopies can not only detect cancer, they can prevent it from occurring. Talk to your doctor to find out when a screening might be right for you.