Many jokes address the discomfort associated with colonoscopies. However, what isn’t funny is the rate at which Americans — approximately 140,000 a year — are being diagnosed with colon cancer, a disease that can be detected early with a colonoscopy. Several other intestinal issues can also be diagnosed with a colonoscopy, which is why your doctor might be recommending the procedure.
Don’t allow the fear of misconception or the unknown to stop you from getting this life-saving test Instead, consider this some valuable information about colonoscopies.
Why Did My Doctor Schedule a Colonoscopy?
In most cases, your doctor will order a colonoscopy if you are at risk of developing colon cancer or are exhibiting the early signs of colon cancer, including changes in bowel movements, severe gas and cramping, and blood in the stool. Individuals at risk of developing colon cancer include:
- People diagnosed with certain conditions. Familial adenomatous polyposis, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease may leave people at risk of developing colon cancer.
- People with close family members affected by colon cancer. Close family members of individuals who were diagnosed with colon polyps or colon cancer may need to be screened more often.
- People over the age of 50. Many physicians recommend individuals who are over 50 receive yearly colonoscopies, especially African Americans.
Your doctor might also schedule a colonoscopy if you show symptoms of colon polyps, suffer from an iron deficiency, or struggle with persistent and otherwise unexplained gastrointestinal issues, such as severe abdominal pains.
How to Prepare for the Colonoscopy
Colonoscopy preparation is critical because it allows doctors to get a more complete look at your colon and intestines. Here are the steps you will be asked to take before the procedure:
- Talk to your doctor about medications and medical conditions. Provide your doctor with a complete medical history, including medications for blood clots or diabetes, and tell them if you are pregnant or being treated for a heart or lung condition.
- Eat only clear fluids before the test. Stick to a liquid diet of clear broth, water, coffee, or gelatin for at least 24 hours before the procedure.
- Clear your bowels. Your doctor will prescribe a laxative or enema to clean out your bowel. Administer it the day or night before the procedure.
The laxative medication can be difficult to drink. Add a sugar-free drink mix or chill it to make it more palatable. Your doctor might recommend splitting the laxative mixture into two doses, one the day before your procedure and the other a few hours before you leave for the hospital. This will ensure the colon is completely free of feces.
Your doctor will provide you with specific instructions prior to your colonoscopy. Be sure to follow them exactly.
What to Expect During the Colonoscopy
Many people choose to forego their doctor’s recommendation concerning colonoscopies because of what they read on the internet or saw on television or in movies. Colonoscopies are safe and pain-free. Before the procedure, the doctor will administer conscious sedation to help you relax and a pain medication to avoid any discomfort.
Next, you will be placed on your side in a procedure room. The doctor will use a long, thin instrument called a colonoscope to examine the inner walls of the colon and intestines. A small amount of air is also used to expand the colon, which gives the doctor a better look at the inner walls.
The time it takes to complete the procedure is dependent on several factors, including the presence of polyps that need to be examined further. Ask your doctor how long they anticipate your procedure will last.
Your doctor may ask you to move your body slightly to allow for easier placement of the colonoscope. If you experience any discomfort from moving or from lying on your side for several minutes, the doctor may recommend taking several deep breaths.
How to Care for Yourself After the Colonoscopy
After the colonoscopy is complete, you will be taken to a recovery room. You might not remember much of the procedure due to the conscious sedation. You will be lethargic for several minutes or hours. You will also feel bloated and gassy because of the air used to enlarge the colon during the procedure. It’s okay to relieve this pressure, even if you feel a little embarrassed.
Ask a friend or family member to be there after the procedure to help you recover and give you a ride home. Do not attempt to go to work or drive the day and night after the procedure. Ask your doctor when you can begin your regular diet, go back to work, and resume taking any medications you were asked to stop prior to the procedure, such as blood thinners.
Know what to expect before, during, and after a colonoscopy to help you mentally and physically prepare for the test. If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to contact the professionals at Southwest Florida Neurosurgical & Rehab Associates.