Colonoscopy Q & A

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a minimally-invasive procedure that uses an instrument called a colonoscope to look inside your large intestine, or colon, and your rectum. Colonoscopy is a vital part of screening for bowel cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and other bowel-related conditions. It’s performed as an outpatient procedure, which means you can go home soon after the procedure is completed.

Will I need to fast before my procedure?

Yes, you’ll need to fast for several hours, and you’ll also need to drink a special liquid or take pills that will clear your bowel contents. During this “prep” period, you’ll need to stay close to the toilet since the liquid or pills will cause you to move your bowels very frequently. During the prep period, you may be allowed clear liquids, like Gatorade or jello. The prep period is an important part of making sure your bowels can be easily viewed during the procedure, so be sure to follow the instructions closely.

What happens during a colonoscopy?

Prior to the procedure, you’ll receive a sedative through an IV in your arm so you can relax and doze during the colonoscopy. You’ll need to lie on your left side on an exam table so it’s easier for the colonoscope to enter through your anus and rectum. The colonoscope is long and flexible and features a light and a tiny camera on one end. As it moves through your colon and rectum, it takes pictures and videos that are sent back to a viewing monitor. When a polyp or abnormal area is identified, special instruments designed to work through the colonoscope can be used to remove the polyp or sample the abnormal tissue. The polyps and tissue samples can be evaluated by a lab to determine if cancer or another disease may be present. Most procedures take about 30 to 45 minutes to complete.

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