Colonoscopies are one of the most important ways to catch colon cancer early, when it is most treatable.
Colonoscopy prep has come a long way in the past decade. Andrea Fribush, MD, gastroenterologist with Concord Gastroenterology Associates, provides insights into common questions about colonoscopies, including what to expect before, during, and after. You can also tune in to a podcast where Dr. Fribush answers other common questions.
Read on, listen to the below podcast, and schedule your colonoscopy at age 45. Dr. Fribush promises it will be worth your while!
What is your secret tip, no longer so secret, for the prep?
Read the preparation instructions as soon as you receive them. Call your gastroenterologist’s office if you have any questions — they are there to help you. Do not be embarrassed to ask any questions, the office staff and gastroenterologists have heard it all. They treat every question as important, confidential, and essential to your care and experience.
Colonoscopy prep methods are now easier than they have ever been. Often, patients can use a flavorless combined pill and liquid laxative preparation instead of an all-liquid prep. But, if your prep is all liquid, the taste is much more palatable than it was in the past.
If you get nauseated easily, ask the office if they can prescribe you an anti-nausea medicine to take before you start the preparation.
If I take a blood thinner can I still get a colonoscopy?
Yes, you can have a colonoscopy safely if you take a blood thinner for a medical condition. Get instructions from the doctor who prescribes your blood thinner regarding when you can safely stop and restart this medicine based on the date of your colonoscopy.
How long does a colonoscopy last?
Usually, the procedure takes less than 30 minutes. You will be in the endoscopy unit for about two hours, which includes time for your nurse to get you ready, the colonoscopy itself, and then recovery, where your nurse will monitor your vital signs and your doctor will talk with you about your results.
Is anesthesia used during a colonoscopy?
Yes, the anesthesiologist who will be with you during your colonoscopy will provide deep sedation, known as TIVA (total intravenous anesthesia). It is highly safe and effective. It is not the type of anesthesia you would receive if you were having surgery (general anesthesia). The anesthesiologist makes sure that you are comfortable and monitors your breathing and vital signs very closely throughout the entire procedure.
Will I go to the bathroom in the middle of the colonoscopy?
Thanks to the laxative prep, you will usually be completely done with trips to the bathroom while still at home. However, some people wear an adult diaper or pad on the way to the hospital for extra security. After the prep, there will be very little material left in your colon, so the gastroenterologist will have a clear view.
When and how will I wake up after the procedure?
The anesthesia begins to clear from your body a few minutes after the colonoscopy. Your anesthesiologist and nurse will continue to monitor your vital signs while you are waking up. Most people feel alert but tired after the test. It is essential that you plan on the following for the remainder of the day: no driving, no important business, and no caring for young children or the elderly.
Will I experience bleeding or will my bowel habits change after the colonoscopy?
It is common to have very mild rectal bleeding after the procedure, from removing a polyp or even from irritation of hemorrhoids. Mild bleeding typically stops on its own within 24 to 48 hours. Your doctor will give you an instruction sheet with the phone number to call if you have any concerns. It can take up to a week for bowel movements to return to normal. After the procedure, we recommend eating normally and drinking plenty of fluids.
What if my test reveals a finding, should I be concerned?
Your doctor will talk with you after the colonoscopy. If they remove polyps or take biopsies, they will send the samples to the pathology lab. If there are any concerning findings, your doctor will call you. Your doctor will typically send you a letter with results and recommendations within two weeks.
The worst thing you can do is miss your screening when you are 45. The purpose of a screening colonoscopy is to detect cancerous growths early when they are most treatable and to remove benign but precancerous polyps, since removing these can then reduce your risk of developing colon cancer in the future. Your gastroenterology team is here to support you through every step.
Listen to the Podcast
Hear from Dr. Fribush on colonoscopy prep, the procedure, and recovery.
Subscribe to the Health Works Here Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and wherever podcasts can be heard.
Request an Appointment
Dr. Andrea Fribush is a board-certified gastroenterologist. For more information or to make an appointment fill out the form on this page or call (978) 287-3835.