A colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure that gastroenterologists use to examine the lining of the colon. A colonoscopy is also used to screen for colorectal cancer or polyps. At The Valley Hospital, our gastroenterologists perform colonoscopies in our state-of-the-art endoscopy suite using the latest technology.
The American Cancer Society and other leading medical organizations recommend that men and women have their first colonoscopy at age 50. If you have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer, polyps, or long-standing ulcerative colitis, your physician may recommend you have a colonoscopy before age 50. Colorectal cancer begins in polyps and is highly preventable if polyps are removed before they become cancerous. It is estimated that increased colorectal cancer screening could save up to 30,000 lives each year.
Preparing for a colonoscopy
Colonoscopies are generally well-tolerated by patients. On the day before the procedure, your doctor will recommend you follow some dietary restrictions and use a colon cleansing method (drinking a cleansing solution or taking oral laxatives). Your colon must be completely clean for the test to be accurate. Before your appointment, check with your doctor about any medications you are taking, including aspirin, anti-coagulants, arthritis medications, or iron products. Also let him/her know if you have any allergies to medications.
What to expect during your colonoscopy
You should plan to be here for 2-3 hours for preparation, the procedure, and recovery. Because your gastroenterologist will give you sedation for your procedure you cannot drive for 24 hours after the procedure.
While you are lying on your side, your doctor will insert a thin flexible tube into your anus and slowly advance it into your rectum and colon. The tube contains fiberoptics that will enable your doctor to view the inside of your digestive tract in color on a television monitor. During a colonoscopy, your doctor will look for polyps, internal bleeding, or other abnormalities. Using special instruments attached to the scope, he/she can remove polyps, take tissue samples for a biopsy, or stop internal bleeding.
After your colonoscopy
A nurse will monitor you until the sedation wears off. You may have some cramping or bloating afterward. You must have someone drive you home. You should be able to eat when you return home. If your doctor removed tissue for a biopsy or any polyps, he/she will notify you with the results.