At a colonoscopy, sedating medication will ensure the patient is relaxed. Some doctors will use general anesthesia. The doctor will insert an instrument called a colonocope into the colon to look for polyps, which can be the beginnings of colon cancer. They can be removed right then and there and, if necessary, tested for cancerous tissue later. The entire exam takes about 30 minutes. Drugs may cause the patient to feel groggy, but there is no physical pain.
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Mehmet Oz, MD, Cardiology, answered
Colonoscopy may be done in a doctor's office, clinic or a hospital. The test is usually done by a doctor who works with problems of the digestive system (gastroenterologist). The doctor may also have an assistant. Some family doctors, internists and surgeons are also trained to do this test.
During the test, you may get a pain medicine and a sedative put in a vein in your arm (IV). These medicines help you relax and feel sleepy during the test. You may not remember much about the test.
Before the test
You will need to take off most of your clothes. You will be given a gown to wear during the test. You may lie on your left side with your knees pulled up to your belly. The doctor will gently put a gloved finger into your anus to check for blockage. Then he or she will put the thin, flexible colonoscope in your anus and move it slowly through your colon. The doctor can look at the lining of the colon through the scope or on a computer screen hooked to the scope.
During the test
You may feel the need to have a bowel movement while the scope is in your colon. You may also feel some cramping. Breathe deeply and slowly through your mouth to relax your belly muscles. This should help the cramping. You will likely feel and hear some air escape around the scope. There is no need to be embarrassed about it. The passing of air is expected. You may be asked to change your position during the test.
Your doctor will look at the whole length of your colon as the scope is gently moved in and then out of your colon.
The doctor may also use tiny tools, such as forceps, loops or swabs, through the scope to collect tissue samples (biopsy) or take out growths. Usually, people do not feel anything if a biopsy is done or if polyps are taken out.
The scope is slowly pulled out of your anus and the air escapes. Your anal area will be cleaned with tissues. If you are having cramps, passing gas may help relieve them.
The test usually takes 30 to 45 minutes, but it may take longer, depending upon what is found and what is done during the test.
After the test
After the test, you will be watched for one to two hours. When you are fully awake, you can go home. You will not be able to drive or operate machinery for 12 hours after the test. Your doctor will tell you when you can eat your normal diet and do your normal activities. Drink a lot of fluid after the test to replace the fluids you may have lost during the colon prep but do not drink alcohol.
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