How Is Your Health?

A Colonoscopy Isn't So Scary When You Know What To Expect

by Camila Davidson

The mere word "colonoscopy" is enough to send shivers through many spines. This is not a pleasant test to have to undergo, but it's not nearly as bad as you might be thinking it will be, either. If you know what to expect, the experience will not be as scary. So take a look.

Preparing for the Colonoscopy

For most patients, preparing for the colonoscopy is the worst part of the experience. Your colon needs to be clean in order for your doctor to see the inside well, which means you'll need to spend a day cleaning out your digestive tract. Your doctor will have you pick up a container of a special laxative beverage from the pharmacy a couple of days before your colonoscopy is scheduled. About 24 hours before your colonoscopy, you will be told to switch to a liquid diet. Then, you will take this laxative beverage to clean out your system. Be prepared to spend a lot of time on the toilet at this stage. It's best to stay at home.

Undergoing the Colonoscopy

This part is actually very easy from the patient's perspective. You'll generally be given a heavy sedative so that you're nearly unconscious during the procedure. You will also be given a local anesthetic so you don't feel a thing. Once you're all prepped with these medications, your doctor will insert a special, tube-shaped camera device into your rectum. They will slowly feed this camera up into your colon, taking video all the way. They may stop partway through and look more closely at any polyps or growths in the colon. Often, small polyps can be removed during the procedure.

The whole procedure should take less than an hour, or maybe a little longer if your doctor finds polyps to remove.

After the Colonoscopy

When you wake up after the colonoscopy, you may feel some slight abdominal or rectal soreness but nothing too serious. Your doctor will discuss the results of the exam with you. If they did remove any polyps, they will send samples to the lab to determine if those polyps are cancerous. If they found growths they could not remove, they'll send samples of those off to the lab, too. If you were dealing with digestive issues like bloody stool, your doctor will discuss if their findings shed any light on the causes of these treatments.

If you have any remaining questions about getting a colonoscopy, reach out to your doctor. The procedure is not nearly as scary as it may seem.