Some aspects of aging are met with excitement: driving a car, getting married, the birth of your first grandchild … others are met with dread. You’re most likely not excited to get your colonoscopy. It seems intimidating and uncomfortable. Yet it’s predicted that 53,000 Americans will die this year of colon cancer. The third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. can be detected and prevented with a simple test and just one day of slight discomfort.
Let us ease your fears a bit about the colonoscopy. While we’ll admit that it isn’t as exciting as the birth of your first grandchild, it is nothing to dread, either. The colonoscopy has been used as a tool to examine the inside of the colon, or the large intestine, for over 20 years. Both men and women are recommended to get their first colonoscopy at age 50, and then every 10 years after that. Those who have a first-degree relative with colon cancer should be tested earlier, at age 40.
Colonoscopy preparation involves cleaning out the colon. In order to completely examine your colon during the colonoscopy, it needs to be clean. Your doctor will instruct you on what to eat and drink in the days leading up to the procedure. The day before the procedure is scheduled, patients are instructed to drink a ‘bowel preparation’, which will help clear out the colon.
Most patients do not experience any pain during their colonoscopy. Your doctor will give you a sedative to help you relax prior to the procedure. The colonoscopy will begin with you lying on your side, with your knees drawn towards your chest. Your doctor will insert the colonoscope into your rectum, which has a tiny camera and light at the end of it. He or she will then move the colonoscope through your large intestine to look for polyps, benign or precancerous tissue attached to the intestinal lining. To widen the colon and make it easier to see, air will be pumped into your colon, which can cause slight cramping or discomfort post procedure. If colorectal polyps are found, they can be removed during the procedure with the colonoscope.
Your colonoscopy appointment will typically take between 2-3 hours total; including check in, the procedure, and recovery time. You will be required to have a responsible adult available to drive you home after the procedure, and that’s it! Your doctor will discuss with you after the procedure if any polyps were removed.
March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month, and in an effort to ‘wipe out’ colon cancer, we’re encouraging everyone to schedule their colonoscopies today. A colonoscopy is the first step to detecting and preventing cancer. The overall death rate from colon cancer has dropped in recent years, largely due to screening tests. Do yourself a favor and schedule your colonoscopy today!
The Centers for Gastroenterology have been the experts in gastrointestinal care for over 40 years in northern Colorado. We are located in Fort Collins, Greeley, and Loveland. Call 970-207-9773 to schedule your appointment now. Learn more about our doctors and procedures at www.digestive-health.org.