Gastrointestinal Health

Colonoscopy: What to Expect Before, During and After

“The prep will be awful.”

“This is going to hurt.”

“It’s dangerous.”

These are some of the most common misconceptions about a colonoscopy. The truth is that it’s a safe, minimally invasive procedure that significantly reduces the risk of colon cancer.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. It’s a slow-growing cancer that’s often asymptomatic. Often by the time it’s diagnosed, it’s already progressed to the later, less treatable stages.

But here’s the thing – colon cancer is largely preventable. The answer is getting a routine colonoscopy starting at age 50. It’s recommended that African American patients begin at age 45.

During a colonoscopy, a gastroenterologist will take a look at your colon and check for polyps – small growths that could become cancerous in time. During the procedure, your doctor can remove these polyps, decreasing your risk for colon cancer in the future. Your doctor will also look for tumors that might indicate the presence of cancer.

You’re not alone if you’re a bit apprehensive about getting a colonoscopy. To help ease your concerns, here’s what to expect before, during and after the procedure:

  • Before – The day before a colonoscopy, you should stick with a clear liquid diet. For example, clear chicken or vegetable broth, Jell-O, water, tea or coffee. This prepares your body and makes it less painful when, in the early evening, you start drinking the colonoscopy preparation. This helps clean things out so your provider can get a good look at your colon during the procedure.
  • During – The day of the colonoscopy, patients meet their care team and are given sedation so they don’t feel any pain or discomfort during the procedure. Your doctor will use a fiberoptic scope to look for – and remove – any polyps, as well as check for other abnormalities, including tumors. The procedure takes about 30-45 minutes to complete but patients stay in the hospital about 2-2.5 hours with prep and recovery time.
  • After – Patients are able to begin eating again shortly after the procedure and go home the same day. You’ll need someone to drive you home but you should be able to drive and work again the following day.

Edward-Elmhurst Health offers a convenient telephone colon screening program to help more people get colonoscopies. Instead of coming to the office for a pre-colonoscopy visit, patients are sent a questionnaire that can be completed via MyChart. A provider follows up with a call to review the questionnaire, discuss medications and finalize details for the colonoscopy appointment.

To assess your risk for colon cancer, take our free online ColonAware risk assessment. To schedule a colonoscopy, make an appointment online to see a gastroenterologist or call 630-527-3200.
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