A colonoscopy is a procedure that lets your HonorHealth doctor look inside your entire large intestine using a colonoscope, a flexible instrument with a camera and light. Your doctor is able to see inflamed tissue, abnormal growths and ulcers.
Initial screening colonoscopies are now recommended starting at age 45 and every 10 years after that until age 75. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor to find out if you should be screened sooner or more frequently.
Additionally, your doctor may recommend a colonoscopy:
- To look for early signs of cancer in the colon and rectum
- To look for causes of unexplained changes in bowel habits
- To evaluate symptoms such as abdominal pain, rectal bleeding and weight loss
- To remove polyps from your colon
How do you prepare for a colonoscopy?
Because a clean colon gives your gastroenterologist greater visibility, you'll need to follow your doctor's colonoscopy prep instructions.
You’ll be on a clear liquid diet the day before your colonoscopy. You'll then drink a bowel preparation to clean out your colon. The prep consists of about two to four liters of a liquid laxative that you drink over several hours. You’ll drink the first dose the evening before your appointment and a second dose several hours before your colonoscopy.
How is a colonoscopy performed?
Your colonoscopy will take place at HonorHealth in an outpatient setting. The procedure is painless and takes about 30 minutes.
- An anesthesiologist or a certified registered nurse anesthetist will sedate you. You'll usually be given medication in a vein to help you relax and feel comfortable. You'll be asleep throughout the procedure and will wake up in the recovery area.
- During the procedure, you'll lie on your left side with your knees drawn up toward your chest.
- Your HonorHealth gastroenterologist will insert a flexible colonoscope into your colon through your rectum.
- Your doctor will use carbon dioxide to expand the colon and to decrease bloating and distension (ballooning) you may experience after the screening. Your doctor may use water during the procedure to clean your colon more and to help identify polyps or abnormalities. Suction may be used to remove fluid or stool.
- Because your gastroenterologist gets a better view as the colonoscope is pulled back out, a more careful examination is done then.
- Your doctor may remove polyps with small wire loops called snares, take tissue samples with tiny biopsy forceps and take photographs throughout the procedure.
What are the risks associated with colonoscopy?
While risks are rare, they include:
- Perforation of the colon
- Adverse reaction to medications
- Cardiopulmonary complications related to anesthesia or injury to the spleen
What should you expect after your colonoscopy?
- You’ll need to have a family member or friend accompany you to your appointment, so he or she can drive you home when you're done.
- Be sure to drink plenty of liquids and eat a healthy meal to restore your energy.
- Avoid driving, operating machinery, drinking alcohol and making legal decisions for at least 24 hours after your colonoscopy.
- You should be able to return to your regular activities the next day.
Are polyps tested after your colonoscopy?
Yes. Any polyps that are removed will be tested for cancer after the procedure. If cancer is found, your doctor will talk with you about treatment options.
If you have polyps, your gastroenterologist will tell you when your next colonoscopy is due.
If your colonoscopy results are negative, doctors recommend that you get retested every 10 years.
Would you prefer a female gastroenterologist?
Are you 45 or older, looking to find the care you need?
There are many patients who are more likely to consider gender when choosing their physician and will often delay care until they are able to have a female provider.
As a GI patient at HonorHealth, you will now have the option to request an all-female care team to perform your colonoscopy. Our goal is to create an easy process, for those looking for more specialized care.