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What to Expect Right After Your Colonoscopy

What to Expect Right After Your Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy is the gold-standard screening test for colon cancer, one of the most treatable cancers there is, provided it’s caught early. Despite the efficacy of colonoscopies, colon cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths (excluding skin cancers) in the United States. About 52,500 people died from colon cancer in 2022, according to the American Cancer Society. 

But since you don’t want to be among those dire statistics, you’ve scheduled a colonoscopy. That was a good move: Colonoscopy reduces your risk for developing colon cancer because it catches and even treats abnormalities in their earliest stages. It also reduces your risk for dying from colon cancer if you do have the disease. 

At Colon and Rectal Surgeons of Greater Hartford, we recommend regular colonoscopies to catch problems early and cure them on the spot, when possible. Your ideal colonoscopy schedule, including when to start them, varies by age and other risk factors. We let you know what’s best for your colon health.

Now that you’re committed to colon health and have an upcoming colonoscopy, you probably wonder what to expect after the procedure. Everyone’s experience differs slightly, but below are some common ones.

You’re sleepy

Whether you choose general anesthesia or a sedative, you’re drowsy after your colonoscopy. We first have you sit in our recovery area to make sure you’re fine before you’re cleared to go home. Once we give you the OK, you can get dressed and make preparations to go home.

It’s absolutely essential, though, that you give someone else the responsibility of getting you home safely. Arrange for a friend or family member to drive you. You won’t be mentally clear enough to operate a vehicle safely. 

If nobody you know has a car, ask a friend to go with you on a rideshare or cab. Don’t try to ride alone. You’re groggy for a while. It can take 24 hours for a sedative to completely wear off. That’s why it’s important to stay home from work and avoid other daily responsibilities, if possible.

You’re crampy

During your colonoscopy, we insert a long thin tube all the way through your rectum and colon, while examining the walls of your colon for abnormalities. We also inflate your colon so that it’s easier for us to maneuver the colonoscope.

If we see abnormalities, such as polyps, we remove them with miniature surgical instruments that are part of the colonoscope. All of this activity irritates your colon and rectum, despite the sedatives or anesthesia.

You may have cramps in the hours after your procedure. You may also feel and look bloated. Take a short walk to alleviate the built-up air and gas pressure.

You may bleed slightly

It’s normal to have some bleeding after a colonoscopy. Your first bowel movement may have blood in it, too. However, this bleeding should all be minimal.

Call us immediately if you pass large blood clots or bleed profusely. Also let us know if you develop a fever, particularly if you’re also bleeding.

Some results take time

If we didn’t find any polyps or other abnormalities during your colonoscopy, then you have the all-clear. Your results are completely normal, and you probably won’t need your next colonoscopy for another 10 years. 

If we removed polyps or found other areas of concern, we send those biopsies and abnormal tissue to the lab. Usually, lab results are returned within 7-10 days. Assuming that the tissues come back noncancerous, we may not schedule another colonoscopy for several years.

However, if you do have cancer, we then meet with you to discuss your options. Usually, that begins with a follow-up colonoscopy. If all abnormal cells were removed, you may not need further treatment. Or, we may refer you to an oncologist. Either way, getting a colonoscopy gives you the best shot for a cure if you do have colon cancer.

Don’t delay your colonoscopy. Call our Colon and Rectal Surgeons of Greater Hartford team at 860-242-8591 today. You can also schedule your appointment online at our Bloomfield, South Windsor, or Plainville, Connecticut, clinics.

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