It’s time for your colonoscopy… now what?
What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a test that allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your rectum and colon. Your doctor will use a thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope to look at the colon.

What is my doctor checking for?  

A colonoscopy helps find ulcers, colon polyps, tumors, and areas of inflammation or bleeding. During a colonoscopy, tissue samples can be collected and abnormal growths can be taken out. Colonoscopy can also be used as a screening test to check for cancer or precancerous growths in the colon or rectum .

How do I prepare for a colonoscopy?

Before this test, you will need to clean out your colon. “Colon prep” usually takes 1 to 2 days. Some preps may be taken the evening before the test. The bowel prep may be uncomfortable, and you may feel hungry on the clear liquid diet. Plan to stay home during your prep time since you will need to use the bathroom often. The colon prep causes loose, frequent stools and diarrhea so that your colon will be empty for the test. If you need to drink a special solution as part of your prep, be sure to have clear fruit juices or soft drinks to drink after the prep because the solution may have a salty or unpleasant taste.

Do I really NEED a colonoscopy?

Screening for colorectal cancer is vital because it often shows no signs or symptoms in its early stages. Colorectal cancer develops from small growths called polyps in the colon, and the rectum.

What should I expect during the procedure? Prior to colonoscopy, IV fluids and sedatives are administered, and you will be placed on a monitor for heart rhythm, blood pressure as well as oxygen. You will lie on your back or your side as the colonoscope is slowly advanced. Once the tip of the colon or the last portion of the small intestine is reached, the colonoscope is slowly withdrawn, and the lining of the colon is carefully examined.

If an abnormal area needs to be further evaluated, forceps can be passed through a channel in the colonoscope and a biopsy can be obtained. The biopsy is submitted to the pathology laboratory for examination under a microscope by a pathologist. If infection is suspected, a biopsy may be obtained for culturing of bacteria or examination under the microscope for parasites. If there are polyps, (benign growths that can become cancerous) they usually can be removed through the colonoscope. Removing these polyps is a great way to prevent colorectal cancer, although the great majority of polyps are benign and do not become cancerous. None of these procedures are known to produce pain. Keep in mind that biopsies are taken for multiple reasons and do not always mean that cancer is suspected.

So you’ve been convinced that it’s necessary, and you’re ready to get scheduled. What should you expect? Sedatives are usually given through an intravenous line so the patient becomes sleepy and relaxed, and pain is relieved. Colonoscopies can cause a feeling of pressure, cramping, and bloating in the abdomen. However, with the aid of medications, the procedure is generally well tolerated and rarely causes pain. Sedatives are usually given through an intravenous line so the patient becomes sleepy and relaxed, and pain is relieved. Discuss comfort measures with your physician before your visit, so that you can have confidence before the procedure. In the end, most people feel that the  the ease of mind after a colonoscopy is a great relief, and worth it entirely. You can do it!