A Colonoscopy Is Easier Than You Think

A colonoscopy could save your life! When colorectal cancer is detected early, it can be treated. But many people avoid getting a colonoscopy because they feel embarrassed or afraid. Here’s what to expect.

A colonoscopy is a medical screening that checks your colon for cancer and any polyps (unusual growths). To do the screening, the doctor uses a thin, flexible scope that has a light and a small camera on the end. The procedure usually lasts just 15–30 minutes.

For the vast majority of patients, a colonoscopy is easy or mildly uncomfortable. The benefit can be enormous—life-saving, in fact! Learn more by talking with your primary care provider or gastroenterologist.

At-Home Preparation

The preparation you do at home in the days before your colonoscopy are key to a successful screening. If you don’t understand any part of the instructions, be sure to ask your doctor or nurse.

The colon must be empty and clean before the screening. So, for several days before the procedure, you will follow a limited diet. On the day before the screening, you will drink large amounts of a laxative, to ensure your colon is empty. (You will need to be at home on this day because you will use the bathroom frequently.) For the last half-day or night, you will consume only clear fluids.

Finally, be sure to enlist a friend or family member to drive you home from the screening. You cannot take a cab or other service.

During the Colonoscopy

You will be lightly sedated so you relax. You will probably feel sleepy. Most people, in fact, are unable to remember the procedure afterward.

During the screening, you will be covered with a drape. The doctor will examine the walls of your colon using the scope. If you are awake, the doctor will let you know what to expect and check on your comfort. If the doctor finds some small polyps (growths), those may be removed because some polyps can become cancerous over time. If the doctor finds larger polyps, those will be removed and sent to the lab for testing.