Preparing for Your First Colonoscopy? Here’s What to Expect

Jul 25 • 2017

Getting a colonoscopy is extremely important – it is one of the best ways to screen for colorectal cancer. Despite being a recommended test, many people avoid colonoscopies because they’re nervous or embarrassed. Knowing what to expect during your first colonoscopy can help calm your stress, so we’ve outlined the process below.

Preparing for the Procedure

The most important thing you’ll need to do before your exam is empty your colon. Your doctor may recommend a way to do this, but common options are enemas or laxatives. You’ll also receive specific instructions on how to limit your diet the night before, such as not eating solid foods and only drinking clear liquids. You’ll also want to disclose all medications to your doctor so he can let you know if there are any dosages you need to adjust in preparation.

During the Colonoscopy

Once you arrive for the exam, you’ll remove your clothing, put on a gown, and take a mild sedative. Next, you’ll lie down on the table in the fetal position with your knees pulled into your chest and the doctor will insert a scope with a light, a video camera, and a tube into your rectum. This will span the length of your colon and may cause some cramping. If necessary, he may remove polyps or take samples of tissue. The entire colonoscopy can take anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes depending on any abnormalities that need to be examined.

After Exam is Completed

Although the sedative is mild, you’ll need to have someone else there to drive you home. It can take an hour before effects start to wear off, but you might experience drowsiness and side effects for the remainder of the day. If you’re feeling discomfort after the procedure, walking can help you remove any excess air left in the colon. Don’t be concerned if you notice a small amount of blood in your stool after the first bowel movement, but contact your doctor if it continues.

If you’re at risk for colon cancer or are 50 or older and haven’t had a colonoscopy yet, now is the time to schedule one. Speak with your doctor today.