If you are recommended to have a colonoscopy, don’t worry: it is a 30 to 60 minute, low-risk, common procedure.
Here is what to expect:
1. A day or two before the procedure, patients are usually required to clean out their colon via a liquid diet and taking laxatives.
2. The day of the colonoscopy, you may be given a mild sedative and pain medication to help you relax. You will not be able to drive yourself home if you are given a sedative, so arrange for transportation ahead of time.
3. The actual test itself involves lying on your side while a long, flexible fiber-optic scope is guided into the rectum. This scope allows the doctor to examine the length of the large intestine for polyps and malignant growths. The flexibility of the scope allows it to move around the curves of the colon; the scope is also constructed so that air can be blown into the colon to inflate it so your doctor can better see the lining of your colon.
4. If the exam reveals abnormalities such as a polyp or inflamed tissue, your doctor can biopsy all or part of the questionable area using tiny instruments passed through the scope. The biopsy will then be sent to a lab for testing. If any bleeding occurs during a biopsy, your doctor can inject special medicines through the scope to stop the bleeding, or use a laser or similar instrument.
When you are finished, you will be expected to remain at the facility for another couple of hours until any sedatives mostly wear off. While bleeding and puncture of the colon are possible complications of colonoscopy, such complications are uncommon.
If you are nervous about getting a colonoscopy, remind yourself that any embarrassment or fear you may experience will only last a few minutes, while the benefits of early detection could add many years to your life.