The Ins and Outs of a Colonoscopy

The Ins and Outs of Colonoscopy

Don’t let your anxieties prevent you from undergoing a colonoscopy; the procedure could save your life.

(via Health News) Colon cancer is more prevalent than you might think: It’s the third most common cancer among men and women in the U.S. And it’s the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the country.

Despite its prevalence, most people know very little about this deadly disease.

Both men and women are at risk for colon cancer, which is not to be confused with prostate cancer which only affects men. The Ins and Outs of Colonoscopy

Everyone, however, has a colon and is susceptible to colon cancer, and the risk increases with age.

Early Detection: Colonoscopy

Because early stage colon cancer shows no symptoms, doctors recommend routine colonoscopies —a procedure that detects colon cancer at its earliest, most treatable stages — for men and women over age 50.

During the procedure, a gastroenterologist inserts a camera into the rectum and looks for precancerous growths called polyps. Even though colonoscopies save lives, many people avoid them. They are anxious about possible pain, embarrassment and the prep involved before the procedure.

So we’ve taken the mystery out of the colonoscopy and provided a step-by-step breakdown of the procedure so you know exactly what to expect.

Before Your Colonoscopy: Diet and Bowel Prep

Per your doctor’s instructions, you will start eating low-fiber foods a few days before your colonoscopy. The day before and the day of your procedure you must abstain from solid foods and consume only clear liquids. Stop eating altogether two hours prior to your colonoscopy.

The day before your colonoscopy, you’ll consume about a gallon of liquid that will trigger bowel-clearing diarrhea as directed by your care team. Your bowels must be emptied for a successful colonoscopy, otherwise polyps can be missed. If your bowels are not adequately prepped and emptied you will have to undergo a repeat procedure.

Day of the Procedure

  1. Check in. Bring your insurance card and photo ID with you, and be prepared to make your copayment.
  2. Preparation with your nurse. In a private room you’ll change into a hospital gown or shorts. Your nurse will discuss with you your medical history, medications you’re taking and any allergies you have. The nurse will also administer an IV containing sedation — yes, you can be sedated during the procedure! — and pain meds and will monitor your blood pressure and oxygen.
  3. Meet your doctor. Next you’ll meet your doctor who will detail the procedure and answer your questions, after which you’ll be escorted to the room where your procedure will be performed.
  4. Colonoscopy. During the procedure you’ll lie on your left side. The nurse will administer meds to help you feel comfortable and block any pain, and a flexible scope will be inserted in the rectum — the entire length of your colon will be examined. The doctor will take biopsies and remove polyps. The procedure will take 20 to 45 minutes depending on your comfort level, the number of polyps found (if any), the length of the colon and the efficacy of your at-home prep. Your doctor and nurse will be with you throughout the entire procedure and will work to ensure your comfort.
  5. Recovery. After the colonoscopy, you’ll be escorted to recovery where you’ll meet the nurse who will care for you as you come out of sedation and your meds wear off. If you are feeling well enough you can have something to drink at this time. When you are sufficiently coherent the nurse will discuss the doctor’s findings.
  6. Discharge. The nurse will provide discharge instructions verbally and in writing. You’ll be able to walk, but you should not drive, so arrange in advance for someone to drive you home. Do not go anywhere — work, school, errands — until the following day as you’ll be forgetful and your reaction times will be compromised on the day of your procedure.


  1. Thank you for pointing out that both men and woman are at risk for colon cancer. This seems like something you would want to make sure to check for. I'll have to look into places in my area where I can go with my husband to get a colonoscopy.