If you are scheduled to have a colonoscopy, you will want to know more about the procedure. In this blog, you will learn what is a colonoscopy and what you can expect. This information is to help educate and alleviate the fear of having a colonoscopy.
The following information was provided to me before my own colonoscopy by my doctor and I want to credit MedStar Washington Hospital Center. As always, Best Men’s Health and Lifestyle is committed to improving the health of men through Nutrition, Fitness, and Lifestyle Change. But this information is relative to everyone.
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NOTE: This information is not intended to replace the advice given to you by your healthcare provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you may have with your healthcare provider.
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Why Would You Need a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is an exam to look at the entire large intestine. The large intestine is examined with a lubricated, flexible tube that has a camera on the end of it and is passed into the colon and other parts of the large intestine.
You may have a colonoscopy as a part of normal colorectal screening or if you have certain symptoms, such as:
- Lack of red blood cells (anemia)
- Diarrhea that does not go away
- Abdominal pain
- Blood in your stool
What Can a Colonoscopy Detect?
A colonoscopy screening can help screen for and diagnose medical problems, including:
- Areas of bleeding
So what are polyps? Polyps are tissue growths inside the body. Polyps can grow in many places, including the large intestine (colon). A polyp may be a round bump or mushroom-shaped growth. you could have one polyp or several.
Most colon polyps are noncancerous (benign). However, some colon polyps can become cancerous over time. Finding and removing polyps early can help prevent this.
What Will Increase Your Risk of Getting Polyps?
You are more likely to develop this condition if you:
- Have a family history of colon cancer or colon polyps
- Are older than 50 or older than 45 if you are African American
- If you have inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
- Have certain hereditary conditions, such as:
- Familial adenomatous polyposis
- Lynch syndrome
- Turcot syndrome
- Peutz-Jeghers syndrome
- Are overweight
- Smoke cigarettes
- Do not get enough exercise
- Drink too much alcohol
- A diet that is high in fat and red meat and low in fiber
- Had Childhood Cancer that was treated with abdominal radiation
Cause of Polyps
Simply stated, we don’t know what causes most polyps, but we do know that they are most common in adults.
What Are the Signs or Symptoms That You Have Polyps?
Most polyps do not cause symptoms.
However, if you have symptoms, they may include:
- Blood coming from your rectum when having a bowel movement
- Blood in your stool. The stool may look dark red or black
- Abdominal pain
- A change in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea
How are Polyps Treated?
Treatment for this condition involves removing any polyps that are found. Most polyps can be removed during a colonoscopy. Once removed, the polyps will then be tested for cancer. Additional treatment may be needed depending on the result.
What are the Risks?
Generally, a colonoscopy is a safe procedure. However, problems may occur, including:
- A tear in the intestine
- A reaction to medicines given during the exam
- Infection (rare)
What Happens Before the Procedure?
Tell Your Healthcare Provider About:
- Any allergies you have
- All medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbs, eye drops, creams, and over-the-counter medicines
- Any problems you or your family members have had with anesthetic medicines
- Any blood disorders you have
- Any surgeries you have had
- Any medical conditions you have
- Any problems you have had passing stool
Eating and Drinking Restrictions
Follow instructions from your healthcare provider about eating and drinking, which may include:
- A few days before the procedure – Follow a low-fiber diet. Avoid nuts, seeds, dried fruit, raw fruits, and vegetables.
- 1-3 Days before the procedure – clear liquid diet. Drink only clear liquids, such as clear broth or bullion, black coffee or tea, clear juice, clear soft drinks or sports drinks, gelatin dessert, and popsicles. Avoid any liquids that contain red or purple dye.
- One day before the procedure – do not eat or drink anything starting 2 hours before the procedure or within the time your healthcare provider recommends. Up to three hours before the procedure, you may continue to drink clear liquids such as water or clear fruit juice.
If you were prescribed an oral bowel prep to clean out your colon:
- Take it as told by your healthcare provider. Starting the day before your procedure, you will need to drink a large amount of medicated liquid. The liquid will cause you to have multiple loose stools until your stool is almost clear or light green.
- If your skin or anus gets irritated from diarrhea, you may use these to relieve the irritation:
- Medical wipes, such as adult wet wipes with aloe and vitamin E.
- Skin-soothing products like petroleum jelly.
- If you vomit while drinking the bowel prep, take a break for up to 60 minutes, then begin the bowel prep again. If vomiting continues and you cannot take the bowel prep without vomiting, call your healthcare provider.
- To clean out your colon, you may also be given:
- Laxative medicines.
- Instructions on how to use an enema.
- Ask your healthcare provider about:
- Changing or stopping your regular medicines or supplements. This is especially important if you are taking iron supplements, diabetes medicine, or blood thinners.
- Taking medicine such as aspirin and ibuprofen. these medicines can thin your blood. Do not take these medicines before the procedure if your healthcare provider tells you not to.
- Plan to have someone take you home from the hospital or clinic.
What Happens During the Procedure?
- An IV may be inserted into one of your veins.
- You will be given medicine to help you relax (sedative).
- To reduce your risk of infection:
- Your Healthcare team will wash or sanitize their hands.
- Your anal area will be washed with soap.
- You will be asked to lie on your side with your knees bent.
- Your healthcare provider will lubricate a long, thin, flexible tube. The tube will have a camera and a light on the end.
- The tube will be inserted into your anus.
- The tube will be gently eased through your rectum and colon.
- Air will be delivered into your colon to keep it open. You may feel some pressure or cramping.
- The camera will be used to take images during the procedure.
- A small tissue sample may be removed to be examined under a microscope (biopsy).
- If small polyps are found, your healthcare provider may remove them and have them checked for cancer cells.
- When the exam is done, the tube will be removed.
The procedure may vary among healthcare providers and hospitals.
What Happens After the Procedure?
- Your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and blood oxygen levels will be monitored until the medicines you were given have worn off.
- Do not drive for 24 hours after the exam.
- You may have a small amount of blood in your stool.
- You may pass gas and have mild abdominal cramping or bloating due to the air that was used to inflate your colon during the exam.
- Ask your health care provider or the department performing the procedure when your results will be ready.
- Have someone take you home from the hospital or clinic.
Follow These Instructions at Home:
- Maintain a healthy weight, or lose weight as recommended by your healthcare provider.
- Exercise every day or as told by your healthcare provider.
- Do not use any products that contain nicotine or tobacco, such as cigarettes and E-cigarettes. If you need help quitting, ask your health care provider.
- If you drink alcohol, limit how much you have:
- 0-1 Drink a day for women.
- 0-2 a day for men.
- Be aware of how much alcohol is in your drink. In the US, one drink equals one 12 oz. bottle of beer (355 mL); one 5 oz. glass of wine (148 mL); or one 1 ½ oz. shot of hard liquor (44 mL).
Eating and Drinking
- Eat foods that are high in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Eat foods high in calcium and vitamin D, such as milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, liver, fish, and broccoli.
- Limit foods high in fat, such as fried foods and desserts.
- Limit the amount of red meat and processed meat you eat, such as hot dogs, sausage, bacon, and lunch meats.
Contact a Healthcare Provider If:
- You have new or worsening bleeding during a bowel movement.
- You have new or increased blood in your stool.
- You have a change in bowel habits.
- You lose weight for no known reason.
Thank you to the Academy of Medicine for this video that will walk you through What Happens During a Colonoscopy.
A colonoscopy is an exam to look at the entire large intestine. During a colonoscopy, a lubricated, flexible tube with a camera on the end of it is inserted into the colon and other parts of the large intestine.
Polyps are tissue growth inside the body. Polyps can grow in many places, including the colon. Most polyps are noncancerous (benign), but some can become cancerous over time. Most polyps can be removed during a colonoscopy.
Follow instructions from your healthcare provider about eating and drinking before and after the procedure. If you were prescribed an oral bowel prep to clean out your colon, take it as told by your healthcare provider.
This information is not intended to replace the advice given to you by your healthcare provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you may have with your healthcare provider.
Q: What is a colonoscopy?
A: A colonoscopy is an exam to look at the entire large intestine. The large intestine is examined with a lubricated, flexible tube that has a camera on the end of it and is passed into the colon and other parts of the large intestine.
Q: Does a colonoscopy hurt?
A: Typically, you will be given a sedative so that you will not feel anything throughout the procedure. If you opt not to have a sedative for whatever reason, talk with your doctor about other options.
Q: At what age should I get a colonoscopy?
A: You should look to get your first colonoscopy at 45. And if all goes well, you will not need to have it done again for another 10 years.
Q: How will I feel after a colonoscopy?
A: You may feel bloated, pass gas, and experience a little bleeding with your first bowel movement. You may also feel a bit groggy from the sedatives. But overall, you will not feel bad and you will be back to your normal self the next day.
Q: How long is the exam?
A: A colonoscopy typically takes 30 minutes, 60 minutes at the most.
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Resource: MedStar Washington Medical Hospital Center Gastroenterology