Getting a colonoscopy may seem like a pretty big deal. You have to fast for a day or so, then clear your bowels the by drinking something that induces diarrhea. Most folks get general anesthesia for the procedure, and the the hospital experience resembles that of getting minor surgery.
My doctor recommended that I get a colonoscopy even though I’m not fifty yet because I have a family history of colon cancer (my dad died from it in 2015). I wasn’t really looking forward to it due to all of the apparent unpleasantness of the procedure.
But now having gone through it, I can say that although all of those things are true, it’s not nearly as bad as it sounds!! You should not delay getting it if your doctor tells you to get one!
I need to emphasize, however, that I’m not a doctor and your experience may differ from mine. I just wanted to share what happened to me.
Preparation is very important to make sure your bowels are clear for the procedure! If you don’t follow directions, the whole procedure might have to be re-done. Each doctor’s instructions may differ, but my doctor had me limit food intake to specific types and quantity of food starting with lunch the day before the procedure. That evening I had to fast and drink a bottle of magnesium citrate mixed with ginger ale to start clearing my digestive tract. The one I got had a very lemony taste. I wouldn’t drink it for fun, but it certainly wasn’t horrible-tasting.
Induced diarrhea sounds awful, but it wasn’t that bad, especially since I fasted and followed the dietary instructions closely. I think I took three or four trips to the bathroom before going to bed that night.
The next morning I was allowed to have one piece of white toast and two eggs. Then I had to drink some more magnesium citrate. The procedure was scheduled for two that afternoon.
So far so good. Yes, there was some fasting, but I didn’t get that hungry because I was still able to drink ginger ale. And the induced “diarrhea” wasn’t that bad either.
Be sure to follow your doctor’s preparation instructions very carefully. There’s no way to hide it if you don’t!
Most people elect to have general anesthesia and be completely unconscious for the procedure. I elected to to stay awake and have a milder anesthesia which would just make me drowsy.
The experience at the hospital does resemble going into surgery. You fill out a bunch of forms and change into a gown. They start an I.V. (if you’re scared of needles, it’s much thinner than the needle they use to take blood samples, so it’s not bad at all), and they wheel you into the hospital room.
From there, my memory is a bit cloudy. I remember them talking about the anesthesia, and even the doctor showing me a polyp on the TV screen, but everything after the anesthesia is a bit hazy, like I was half asleep. At no point did I feel any pain!
The procedure took less than an hour.
Afterwards, they wheeled me into another room where my wife was waiting for me. The doctor came in to explain the results. He had found and removed three medium-sized polyps. They were not cancerous, but the were “pre-cancerous”, so it was really good that I had them removed.
With my family history, and the fact that I had three polyps before age 50, he told me I should get a colonoscopy every three years. Most people only need them every five or ten years.
But, I was glad to get it taken care of, and given how easy the procedure was, I didn’t mind knowing I’d have to do it again relatively soon. There are much worse things to have to do.
Although I felt alert after the procedure, I started feeling drowsy a bit later and took a nap when I got home. I was definitely glad I followed their instructions and did not try to drive home afterwards!
Other than the drowsiness, I had no other ill effects afterwards.
Please Do It If Your Doctor Recommends It
Honestly, the most painful part of the procedure was peeling off the band-aid from my arm where they put the IV in. While the procedure does kind of take you out of commission for a day and a half, it’s not painful and nothing to be afraid of. If your doctor says you need to get a colonoscopy, please don’t delay!
In my case, since I’m under fifty, my insurance company didn’t completely cover the procedure. But, I’m really glad I didn’t wait just to save some money. If you’re over fifty, your insurance company should completely cover it, but check your policy to be sure.
Don’t be scared! Just do it!
By the way, my doctor said that some of the known causes of colon cancer are eating lots of red meat, and any kind of burned or BBQ’d meat. For more information on colonoscopies and colon cancer, please see this article.
What was your colonoscopy like? Please share below! – Brian