With any new procedure can come some hesitancy and, of course, some questions, especially with routine colonoscopies. For starters, you might be nervous about the prep or feel unsure of what it might entail. You might find yourself wondering how long the process will take if the colonoscopy will involve pain and how you’ll feel after the procedure is complete.
However, when you know how to prepare thoroughly, what the day will entail, and what to expect after the procedure is complete, you can make your first colonoscopy a much less stressful experience.
So if you scheduled or are looking to schedule an upcoming routine colonoscopy, here is everything you need to know:
When Should You Begin Getting Colonoscopies?
Colonoscopies test your colon and rectum to spot any small polyps or growths that may later become cancerous. A long thin tube with a camera at the end is inserted deep into your colon during the procedure. For those 45 years or older, it should become a routine part of your wellness care. However, there might be other factors that could lead to an earlier need for a colonoscopy. Your doctor may suggest a colonoscopy before 45 years of age if you:
- Have a family history of colon cancer
- Have a family history of rectal cancer
- Have a family history of polyps
- If you are looking for an explanation as to why you experience pain, bloody stool, constipation, or diarrhea
The procedure is considered safe, but if you are worried about any risk factors, discuss them further with your primary care doctor.
The Day Before Prep
Before you arrive for your procedure, your doctor will provide you with detailed prep instructions to ensure your colon gets cleaned out. Your doctor may ask you to stop specific medications a few days before the procedure, so be sure to mention any prescribed or over-the-counter medicines you may be taking daily, including supplements.
You’ll want to refrain from any solid foods the day before and stick to clear liquids up until midnight the night before.
You will also get a laxative or enema to take the day before so that they can get a clear view of anything that could be worrisome.
The Day of Your Colonoscopy
Your doctor might schedule your colonoscopy at the office, local clinic, or hospital. You’ll want to arrive early and make sure to have someone available to take you and pick you up, as you’ll receive medication that will make you drowsy.
During The Procedure
The entire procedure will take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. After being given medication, you’ll lay on your side. Air will first be blown through the tube into your rectum to help widen your colon and make the procedure painless. The doctor will then place the camera inside to look for any polyps or growths. If they see any signs that appear to be precancerous during the process, they may take a biopsy. They might also remove any polyps they find along the way.
What to Expect After Your Colonoscopy
Once the procedure is complete, you’ll spend the next hour resting in recovery. Because of air in your colon, you will be passing gas, and mild cramping or minimal blood during your first bowel movement may occur.
Follow Up Care and Appointments
The results of your colonoscopy will determine how often you schedule them. For those prone to polyps, you may need to plan your next test anywhere between five and ten years after your first. However, if your test is standard, the next one shouldn’t occur for another ten years or so until you reach the age of 75. From there, you can discuss with your doctor if the procedure is still necessary or not.
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