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What to Expect Before, During, and After Your First Colonoscopy

What to Expect Before, During, and After Your First Colonoscopy

Each year in the United States, doctors diagnose more than 100,000 new cases of colon cancer and almost 45,000 new cases of rectal cancer. Colon cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths in the US, not including skin cancers, and according to the American Cancer Society, it caused approximately 52,500 deaths in 2022.

As dire as these statistics sound, they’re an improvement over statistics of the past. In the last few decades, the number of women and men who’ve died from colon cancer has dropped, mostly due to early detection by colonoscopy. Colonoscopy reduces your risk for developing colon cancer, and it reduces your risk for dying from it. 

When you book a colonoscopy at Colon and Rectal Surgeons of Greater Hartford, you’ve already taken a major step toward eliminating colon cancer from your future. Our colorectal experts perform colonoscopies at our offices in Bloomfield, South Windsor, and Plainville, Connecticut. We also offer convenient colonoscopy clinics on Saturdays.

If you’ve never had a colonoscopy before, you may wonder what to expect. Here’s how it breaks down.

Before your colonoscopy

Although colonoscopy is minimally invasive, it does require sedation. That means you need to find somebody reliable to bring you to our facility and take you home afterward. You’re too groggy after colonoscopy to drive or operate equipment.

A few days before your procedure, make sure you get everything you need for your bowel-prep day. You need to fast for 24 hours before your colonoscopy. Helpful supplies include:

You may also need to stop certain medications, herbs, and supplements for a week or two before your colonoscopy. We give you a full list when you book your procedure.

A couple of days before the procedure, switch to bland foods to avoid stressing your colon. When it’s time to start a liquid fast and drink the laxative, mix the preparation with the light-colored sports drink to make it more palatable. 

Stay close to the toilet when you’re purging. You can manage discomfort with wipes and diaper cream. You may need to wear adult diapers to avoid soiling your underpants.

During your colonoscopy

Day of, you may wish to wear an adult diaper to your appointment and also bring a change of clothing … just in case. Once you arrive, we have you change into an exam gown.

We give you a sedative that keeps you relaxed and groggy during the procedure. You may not remember anything afterward, even though you were awake.

During the colonoscopy, you lie on your side on the exam table and we thread a thin tube called a colonoscope through your anus, up into your rectum, and then into your colon. The colonoscope is a high-tech instrument armed with a miniature camera, a device for inflating your colon, grasping tools, and an irrigation tool.

We proceed slowly along the entire length of your colon, looking for abnormal growths or cells. If we find abnormalities called polyps, we remove them with the instruments right there on the spot.

Unlike most other cancer screens, colonoscopy is also a treatment. We use it to remove polyps, which can be precancerous growths. If we remove polyps or other abnormalities, we send the tissue to a pathologist for analysis. In most cases, polyps are benign.

After we’ve completed the colonoscopy, we withdraw the instrument. You then wait in the recovery room to be sure you’re OK and to allow the sedative to wear off gradually. Once we clear you, you get dressed and your friend or family member takes you home. 

After your colonoscopy

You may feel sore and bloated after your colonoscopy. You can take short walks to relieve the pressure of any built-up gas. You may also notice a small amount of blood the first time you have a bowel movement, which is perfectly normal. Call us if you pass large blood clots, large amounts of blood, or develop a fever.

You’re also groggy. It can take a full 24 hours for the effects of the sedative to wear off.

If we didn’t find any abnormalities other than small polyps, you may not need another colonoscopy for 10 years, depending on your situation. If we find benign polyps, we may want to follow up in 1-7 years. 

If the lab identifies cancerous cells in any polyps we remove, we may recommend a follow-up colonoscopy. We may also refer you to an oncologist for further treatment.

A colonoscopy may not be pleasant, but it can save your life. To book your colonoscopy, contact our team at Colon and Rectal Surgeons of Greater Hartford today. Call us at 860-242-8591, or schedule your appointment online.

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