What to Expect During and After Your First Colonoscopy

If you’re at or past age 45, the American Cancer Society and more recently the United States Preventive Task Force strongly recommends that you get a colonoscopy soon — and so do we.

Dr. Darrien Gaston and our team here at Metropolitan Gastroenterology Consultants in the Beverly area of Chicago, Illinois, urge all our patients to take colon cancer screening seriously. More than 500,000 people die every year from this disease, even though it’s highly treatable in its early stages. And a colonoscopy is the best way to catch it before it’s too late. 

That said, we understand that the idea of undergoing this test puts many people on edge — usually because they don’t know what's involved. Here, we take a closer look at the colonoscopy so you can be fully prepared and relaxed when you come in for yours.

Colonoscopy prep

Getting a colonoscopy takes a little bit of forethought and planning. Although every individual is different, Dr. Gaston instructs most patients to follow a specific diet in the days leading up to the colonoscopy to clean out your colon. In some cases, he may have you take a laxative to ensure the job is thorough. 

Certain medications may interfere with the test, so if you’re taking any anticoagulants, insulin, iron supplements, arthritis meds, or even aspirin, tell Dr. Gaston about them during your initial consultation.

The day of your colonoscopy

If this is your first colonoscopy, it’s normal to feel a little nervous. If you are having your procedure in our State-of-the-art office facility, our anesthesia provider will administer the anesthesia, you will be asleep during the procedure, so there’s really nothing to worry about.

Once you’re comfortable on the procedure table and lightly sedated, Dr. Gaston inserts the slender, flexible colonoscope into your anus. A small camera at the tip sends real-life images to a monitor so he can get a good look at your bowels. The scope emits a small amount of carbon dioxide gas to inflate the area and allow for a better view.

The goal of this screening test is to identify any abnormal precancerous growths called polyps. If Dr. Gaston sees one, he removes it and analyzes the tissue in the lab after your procedure is finished.

Most colonoscopies last about 45 minutes, but from check-in to recovery, you may be here about two or three hours. Once the sedation wears off, a friend or loved one has to be available to drive you home. 

What to expect after your colonoscopy

Since the colonoscopy procedure isn’t painful, you shouldn’t expect to feel any pain afterward. 

Definitely expect to feel drowsy. The sedation wears off within an hour or so, but the effects may linger throughout the day. Take advantage of that and allow yourself to rest and take it easy.

Another common post-colonoscopy effect is bloating. The gas we released into your bowels may be looking for a way out — go ahead and pass it, and you’ll feel better. 

Once your appetite kicks in, you quickly become aware that you’ve been fasting, and you may be tempted to reward yourself with a big meal. Resist that urge and reintroduce food slowly. Your stomach and bowels aren’t ready for a feast yet. Start with liquids and soft foods that are easy to digest. In fact, the better hydrated you are, the sooner your bowels will get back to normal function.

Scheduling your colonoscopy

Now that you know what to expect during your first colonoscopy, it’s time to get it on the books. It’s not the most exciting way to celebrate your 45th birthday, but we hope we’ve set your mind at ease and helped you realize it’s not as bad as you imagined. So, call our office today or book an appointment online to set up your first colonoscopy so you can enjoy many more birthdays to come.

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