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Answering Your Most Awkward Colonoscopy Questions

Answering Your Most Awkward Colonoscopy Questions

Colon and rectal cancer are still the second leading causes of cancer death in the United States. A colonoscopy is the “Gold Standard” screening test that saves lives through early detection and removal of masses. The American Cancer Society reports that having a colonoscopy decreases your risk of developing colon cancer by a whopping 80%. Yet, many people avoid having this potentially life-saving screening because of embarrassment, fear, or misunderstanding. These are a few of the most embarrassing questions we receive about colonoscopies—answered.

Should I change my diet before colon cleansing?

The less you have in your gut before flushing your colon, the easier the process will be. People report that eating smaller, lighter meals a few days before their colonoscopy helped ease the cleansing process. Eating bland food over spicy or rich food is also a good idea.

Is the prep drink disgusting?

You’ll be placed on a clear liquid diet before your prep, in addition to drinking the “prep drink” to induce colon cleansing. Honestly—it’s no one's favorite flavor. But here are a few tips from Gastroenterologist Joshua Vandersteen:

“Definitely chill your prep mixture. Patients report that it tastes better chilled. You may also add in powdered flavoring like Crystal Light®, as long as it doesn’t contain red or blue coloring. Last tip: Try chasing it. Wash down gulps of prep with Sprite®, Gatorade®, or another clear beverage to help remove the taste from your mouth.”

What should I know about prep day?

The goal of your “prep day” is to empty out the colon in preparation for your scope. The best advice is don’t make any plans. You can queue up that show you’ve been meaning to watch, download an audiobook, catch up on emails—but most importantly, stay near the bathroom.

Colonoscopy prep will clean out six feet of your colon, so keep yourself comfortable in the bathroom with a stack of personal hygiene wipes. Some people also have A&D ointment on-hand for added comfort.

Am I in a private area when I get my colonoscopy?

Yes, your colonoscopy is performed in a private space. Your privacy is very important to us. If you have privacy concerns, please don’t hesitate to let us know.

What does the doctor do during a colonoscopy?

First, you’ll change clothes and wear a hospital gown for the procedure. You’ll lay on your left side on an exam table and pull your knees towards your stomach. You’ll also be given a sedative for your comfort through a tube in your arm. Your doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube-like instrument with video capabilities into your anus and moves it slowly through your rectum and into your colon. They’ll see an image of your intestines through a computer screen.

Air is inflated into your colon to give your doctor a clear view of the colon lining. You may feel or hear some of this air escape. Don’t be embarrassed! This is a natural part of a colonoscopy. Your doctor may also use small tools to take a tissue sample or remove a growth.

Finally, the scope is slowly pulled out of your anus and the colonoscopy is complete. It takes between 30-45 minutes.

Does colonoscopy hurt?

Most people don’t find colonoscopies to be painful due to the sedation. Because air is pumped into your colon, you may have some cramping in your lower abdomen which usually dissipates after the procedure. Most people dislike the bowel-prep more than the colonoscopy itself.

Will I be gassy afterward?

Yes, this is completely normal and healthy. Since your doctor inflated your colon to get a clear image, all patients will experience some degree of gas and/or cramping. According to Dr. Vandersteen, “You’re not the first or the last person to fart inside the office; we are very used to it. In fact, I don’t let patients leave without passing gas!”

Can I drive home?

You will not be permitted to drive home due to the sedation. Make sure you have a ride to and from the surgical center or hospital.

Everyone at age 45 should begin screening for colonoscopies, regardless of their family history. Keep in mind that, while inconvenient and a little uncomfortable, colonoscopy is the #1 way to prevent one of the most deadly cancers in America. If you have not scheduled a colonoscopy yet, please contact us to initiate this important screening.