What To Know About Getting a Colonoscopy

March 21, 2022, 8:13 pm

A colonoscopy is procedure that can allow your doctor to detect colorectal cancer, or early signs of it. Colorectal cancer (cancer in the rectum or colon) can begin to develop before you notice any symptoms, so it is important to get screened, which is recommended for healthy adults ages 45 and older by the United States Preventive Task Force.

During a colonoscopy, your doctor uses a long, thin, flexible tube that has a light and a tiny camera on the end to check all through the rectum and colon. There are other methods that can be used to screen for colorectal cancer, but the colonoscopy remains the most thorough way for your doctor to view and check the entire colon. For example, if you and your doctor decide to try a colorectal cancer screening method that uses a stool sample, that is a great option; however, if the results seem abnormal, your doctor may want to schedule a colonoscopy in order to see what may have caused that result.

To prepare for your colonoscopy, your doctor will give you specific instructions to follow and will prescribe you a solution to drink the day before the exam that helps clear out the colon. Also on the day before your test, you must follow a special diet of clear liquids. Following this “bowel prep”, as it is sometimes called, is important in order for your doctor to see things like polyps – small growths that can be harmless or precancerous – in the colon. If you do not complete the bowel prep, your doctor may not be able to perform the exam.

You should follow the preparation instructions your doctor gives you carefully. Read them ahead of time to make sure you understand and are able to follow them. If you have any questions about the preparation instructions or the procedure itself, feel free to call and ask your doctor. Colonoscopies are common, and they get many questions from patients about the process all the time.

Most patients are sedated during a colonoscopy, which prevents from feeling any discomfort. If you are going to be sedated for the exam, make sure you have transportation arranged to get to and from the hospital, because you will be too drowsy to drive afterwards. Your doctor will share the results of the exam with you when you are awake enough to discuss them, which may be at a later time, depending on your doctor and how you feel.

Getting a coloscopy has proven benefits of catching colorectal cancer. Talk to your doctor about planning your screening for colorectal cancer.



Recommendation: Colorectal Cancer: Screening | United States Preventive Services Taskforce (

Colonoscopy - Mayo Clinic

Preparing for a colonoscopy - Harvard Health

Colorectal Cancer Screening Tests | CDC



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