What to Expect From Your First Colonoscopy

Having a colonoscopy is one of the smartest moves you can make to prevent colon cancer. It’s so important the American Cancer Society recommends that everyone should have their first colonoscopy around their 45th birthday, with regular screenings every ten years after that in most cases.

Of course, just because having a colonoscopy is the right thing to do for your health, that doesn’t mean you’re looking forward to it. Many people facing their first colonoscopy are nervous or worried about what to expect. The good news: Colonoscopies are a lot simpler than you might think.

At Desert West Surgery, our team uses the most advanced colonoscopy techniques for our patients in Las Vegas, Nevada, offering quick, painless, safe, and effective procedures in detecting the earliest stages of cancer. If you’re ready to schedule your first colonoscopy, here’s what to expect.

Before your colonoscopy

A colonoscopy examines your bowel, looking for growths or other abnormal tissue areas that could be an early sign of cancer or another bowel problem. To visualize your bowel, it needs to be completely clear of fecal matter. 

The day before your colonoscopy, you’ll be given a strong laxative that will “clean out” your intestines. You’ll also need to follow some simple dietary restrictions, like consuming only clear beverages for most of the day and not eating anything after midnight.

During your office visit, you should also tell your doctor about any medications you’re taking. In some cases, the doctor may advise you to stop taking your medication the day before your colonoscopy or change your dosing in other ways.

On the day of your colonoscopy, you’ll need to have someone drive you home from your appointment. That’s because colonoscopy is performed under sedation, and you’ll still be groggy once your colonoscopy is over.

During your colonoscopy

Once you drive for your colonoscopy, you’ll change into a hospital gown. You’ll receive a sedative medication to help you “nap” throughout the procedure. Most colonoscopies only take about a half-hour to an hour.

For the actual colonoscopy, you’ll lie on your side to make it easier to insert the scope. The scope itself is very flexible, and the tip of the scope is equipped with a bright light and a camera. The camera takes real-time video of the inside of your colon, sending the images back to a screen so your doctor can see the entire area.

First, the doctor will pump air into your colon to expand the area and make it easier to see. Then, the doctor will advance the scope, examining your colon and your rectum as the scope moves along the length of your lower bowel. 

If any polyps (growths) are present, the doctor will use the scope to remove the polyp for evaluation under a microscope. The doctor may also take small tissue samples (biopsies) in any areas where the bowel tissue looks unusual or abnormal.

After your colonoscopy

Once your colonoscopy is complete, you’ll go to a recovery room for an hour or so. You’ll probably feel bloated from the air that was pumped into your colon. Passing gas will help relieve the bloated feeling. You’ll also feel groggy from the sedative.

Aside from the drowsiness, there’s no real downtime from a colonoscopy. You’ll be allowed to eat, but because your bowel has been emptied and you’ve been fasting for a bit, you’ll probably want to start with a small meal that’s not spicy. You might also have some cramping with your first bowel movement, and there might even be a tiny amount of blood if you’ve had a biopsy or you’ve had polyps removed. 

That’s all there is to it. Having a colonoscopy might not be something you’d want to do every weekend, but once you’ve had your first colonoscopy, you’ll realize it’s nothing to worry about.

Protect your health

Colon cancer is the third leading cause of death in the United States, claiming more than 50,000 lives every year. Having a colonoscopy is one of the smartest things you can do to reduce your risks and protect your health. To learn more about colonoscopy, give us a call to schedule an office visit today. With three locations in Las Vegas, Desert West Surgery makes it easy and convenient to get the care you need to stay healthy.

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