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What to Expect During and After Your First Colonoscopy

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What to Expect During and After Your First Colonoscopy

Jul 01, 2022

Colon cancer is highly treatable, especially when it’s detected early. But despite advances in medical technology that allow your doctor to find and stop it, colorectal cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer deaths in America. 

The good news is that a simple screening, called a colonoscopy, can save your life. At Carolina Digestive Health Associates, PA, with multiple offices in the Belmont and Charlotte areas of North Carolina, our gastroenterology experts specialize in diagnosing and treating colon cancer using colonoscopy. 

If it’s time for your first colonoscopy, we know you might feel nervous about the procedure. Put your mind at ease and boost your confidence in taking this important step for better health by learning more about what to expect during and after the test. 

Why we recommend colonoscopy

Colonoscopy is a minimally invasive screening method that allows your doctor to look closely at the lower part of your gastrointestinal tract, which includes your colon, or large intestine, and your rectum.

At Carolina Digestive Health Associates, we use this type of screening to identify changes in the lining of your digestive tract — abnormal cells and cell clusters called polyps are an early warning sign of colon cancer. During a colonoscopy, we remove these cells if we find them to lower your risk of cancer and prevent it from spreading or worsening. 

Your risk of getting colon cancer increases with age, with around 95% of colon cancer patients being 45 or older. The good news is that colorectal cancer treatments have very high rates of success, especially when we detect and treat the cancer early. Colonoscopy makes this possible. 

The American Cancer Society and the Colorectal Cancer Alliance recommend colon cancer screenings beginning at age 45 for most Americans and take place every 5-10 years based on your results and history. 

Your Carolina Digestive Health Associates provider may recommend earlier or more frequent screenings if you have additional risk factors, such as:

  • Eating a lot of red and processed meats
  • Having a sedentary lifestyle
  • Being overweight or obese  
  • Smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol
  • Having a family history of colorectal cancer or an inherited gene
  • Having a personal history of digestive health disorders

You may also need a colonoscopy earlier or more often if you have a health condition linked to an increased risk of colon cancer, such as a history of other cancers, Type 2 diabetes, or radiation therapy. 

What to expect during and after a colonoscopy 

Colonoscopies are the best way to detect and protect against colon cancer, but we know you might feel intimidated before your first procedure. Feel free to ask questions or raise concerns during your consultation. 

During your first colonoscopy

The day before and the day of your colonoscopy, expect to follow some dietary restrictions. You use a special cleanse to help clear out your colon before the procedure, and it’s important to follow our instructions to make sure you get the best screening results possible. 

Expect to get a ride to and from your colonoscopy because you take medication to keep you comfortable and relaxed during your screening. While you don’t need general anesthesia, these medications make you sleepy and you won’t remember the procedure. 

Once you’re ready, your provider inserts a special camera attached to a thin, flexible scope to examine your gastrointestinal tract for any signs of colorectal cancer. We pump a small amount of air into the colon to help us better see the lining.

If we find any abnormal cells or polyps, we remove them for biopsy, but you won’t feel any pain or discomfort. Sometimes biopsy results take several days, and in this case, your provider contacts you to discuss the results. 

After your first colonoscopy

When your colonoscopy is complete, you rest in recovery and then talk to your provider about the screening. Most patients leave for home quickly and resume most routine activities within a few hours, once the medications wear off. 

Depending on whether your provider removed polyps, you may need to avoid certain foods for a few days. It’s normal to feel bloated or have some gas because of the extra air pumped into your colon. Walking and eating small meals helps ease any discomfort from gas.

If you have any questions or concerns after your procedure, or if you notice blood clots or worsening abdominal pain, please call our office for guidance. 

To learn more about what to expect during and after a colonoscopy, or to book your first screening, schedule an appointment online or over the phone at the Carolina Digestive Health Associates location nearest you.