Your First Colonoscopy: What to Expect

Aug 02, 2022

While alternatives are available, colonoscopy remains the best way to prevent colon cancer. The goal of screening colonoscopy is to detect and remove colon polyps as certain polyps (adenomas) have the ability to turn cancerous.

While alternatives are available, colonoscopy remains the best way to prevent colon cancer. The goal of screening colonoscopy is to detect and remove colon polyps as certain polyps (adenomas) have the ability to turn cancerous. Since the majority of colon cancers are found in people who are 50 and older, your first colonoscopy should happen at age 50. Some people may need a colonoscopy sooner.

Many patients say the uncertainty of a colonoscopy is the worst part but there is really nothing to fear. Medical advancements have provided better equipment, sedation, and preps, improving the quality of the entire process. Let’s go through the process so you can understand what’s involved. I hope this alleviates your concerns and answers your questions.

Before the Colonoscopy

Our staff will give you written instructions and a prescription for your bowel preparation when you schedule your colonoscopy. Make sure you review the instructions well in advance so you are prepared to start the bowel preparation process the day before your procedure. When scheduling your colonoscopy, make sure that you have an updated and complete list of medications so that these may be reviewed in detail. You will be given specific instructions about taking your medication during the entire colonoscopy process.

Plan to be off from work the day of the colonoscopy. You will need a driver whom you know personally. This driver will need to stay for the duration of the colonoscopy. You will not be allowed to take a cab.

The day before your colonoscopy, you can go to work as usual if you work regular business hours. One interruption in your daily life is that you are instructed not to eat solid foods. You will need to stay on a clear liquid diet all day. This diet includes water, black coffee, Gatorade, Jell-O, clear broth, and juice. Stay away from orange juice and any Jell-O or Gatorade that is red or orange, because the dye can affect visibility during the procedure.

Follow the instructions provided by your doctor regarding the bowel preparation. The purpose of this stage is to completely clean out your colon of all waste. In most cases, this is usually at the end of the normal work day. You should be at home so you can be close to your bathroom. Remember to drink plenty of clear liquids, including water, to help avoid dehydration and improve your prep quality. A good prep is key to having a good examination. Poorly done preps may result in missed polyps or having to repeat the procedure sooner than would otherwise have been necessary.

The Day of the Colonoscopy

You should continue to consume clear liquids only up until 4 hours prior to your colonoscopy. It’s important that your stomach is empty during the procedure. If you take medication, be sure to follow the instructions our staff provided.

Wear comfortable clothes so that getting dressed afterwards is easy. It is fine to wear your contact lenses if you prefer. Leave your valuables at home (or with your driver during the procedure).

Bring your insurance card, photo ID, specialist co-payment and a list of the medication(s) you take. After you’ve completed paperwork, you’ll go into the exam room and put on a hospital gown. The doctor will speak with you and also review your medical history. You will receive sedation through an IV. The old method of sedation caused a twilight sleep that left patients feeling groggy for the rest of the day. Today’s sedation is quicker acting, and also has a quicker recovery period. The procedure usually takes 10-15 minutes. Since you are asleep, you will not feel any discomfort. You’ll wake up after about 30 minutes and you will get dressed.

Directly After the Colonoscopy

You will receive a report on your colonoscopy findings before you leave the procedure center. If polyps are found, they are removed and sent for testing. You will be notified regarding these results within 5-7 days. Recommendations regarding timing of your next colonoscopy are based on the number, size, and type of polyps removed, as well as your family history.

Your driver will then take you home to rest. You should not drive or work for the rest of the day. It is also recommended that you avoid making any important decisions until the next day.

Many people are concerned that they will experience pain or discomfort after a colonoscopy. You shouldn’t experience any pain, but there might be some gas and/or bloating because air/carbon dioxide is pumped into the colon during the procedure to optimize visualization. Remember that your colon is now empty and it may take 1-3 days to begin having bowel movements again. This is normal.

If you have additional concerns, our staff is available to answer your questions.

If you haven’t scheduled your colonoscopy yet, contact us today.