What Should I Know Before Going Into a Colonoscopy?
Colorectal cancer is highly preventable, and timely colonoscopies are the only way to achieve that goal. Don’t wait for symptoms! If you’re age 50+ (or younger, if you’re at higher risk of colorectal cancer), then it’s time to have a colonoscopy.
How do colonoscopies prevent colorectal cancer?
All colorectal cancers start as precancerous polyps, which are growths that protrude from the inner wall of the large intestine. Colonoscopy is the gold standard for finding and painlessly removing these polyps before they turn into cancer.
In fact, US colon and rectal cancer rates have dropped 30% in the last 10 years among adults age 50+. Why? More Americans are having screening colonoscopies to prevent cancer. But despite that, colorectal cancer is still the second-leading cancer killer in the United States. Let’s work together to change that. Click to schedule your colonoscopy.
What happens during a colonoscopy procedure?
Using a colonoscope, we inspect your entire rectum and colon. A colonoscope is a thin, flexible tube with several devices on the end, including a light, camera and a tool for removing polyps. Your doctor will insert the colonoscope and guide it to the end of the colon, and then slowly remove it while looking for polyps. Fecal matter can hide polyps from view, so excellent preparation is important. If your doctor finds a polyp, he will painlessly remove it and send it to a pathology lab for examination.
What is the prep for a colonoscopy?
We’re not going to lie – colonoscopy prep is generally considered the most difficult part of the procedure. The good news? Recent advances have made it much easier and more bearable. Once you’re done with the prep, the rest is easy!
To get ready for a colonoscopy, full bowel prep is required. Your doctor will give you specific directions on how to prepare, but generally, all solids must be emptied from the stomach and bowel by following a clear liquid diet for 1-3 days before the procedure. You should not drink beverages containing red or purple dye. A few examples of what you can drink:
- Fat-free bouillon or broth
- Strained fruit juice
- Plain coffee or tea
- Sports drinks, such as Gatorade
A laxative may also be required the night before a colonoscopy as to loosen stool and get your bowels moving. You won’t be permitted to drive immediately following the procedure, so be sure to arrange a ride home beforehand.
What happens after the colonoscopy?
Patients may experience cramping or bloating in the hour following the procedure. The sedative takes time to completely wear off, so patients may need to remain at the clinic for 1-2 hours, or until this happens. The upside: full recovery is expected by the next day. Side effects of colonoscopies are rare, but patients should contact their doctor if they experience:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Bloody bowel movements
Rarely, a patient may experience tearing or perforation of the lining of the intestine. If this happens, surgery may be needed to repair the injury. Another risk is bleeding, usually at the site of a biopsy or polyp removal. Most cases of bleeding stop without treatment or can be controlled at the time of the procedure.
50 or above? The time for a colonoscopy is now.
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Gastroenterology Consultants of San Antonio (GCSA) was established in 1978 and has grown into one of the largest private GI practices in Texas. We have 23 board-certified gastroenterologists on staff, and every single one is dedicated to providing you comprehensive, compassionate and individualized digestive and liver care.