The humble screening that's helped millions prevent and detect colon cancer early

About colonoscopies

Colonoscopy is an outpatient screening that's considered the gold standard for accuracy in colon cancer detection. 

If you're over 45, we recommend having a colonoscopy every 10 years. But you may need to be screened earlier and more often, depending on your risk factors and family history.

Before your colonoscopy:

  • Let us know if you've had a colonoscopy before. It's very helpful to know when and where you had your procedure.
  • Please have a handy list of any allergies and your current medications. Most medicines are OK, but some can interfere with your exam.
  • You'll be given instructions on how to prepare, including drinking a special liquid the day before that will produce watery bowel movements. This is very important. A well-prepared colon gives your doctor a clear view. If your colon isn't clean enough, your procedure may need to be rescheduled.
  • You should arrange for someone to drive you to and from the procedure.
  • You'll be asked to sign a consent form before the procedure.

During your colonoscopy:

  • You'll be comfortably asleep during the procedure. An anesthesiologist will give you mild anesthesia and will monitor you closely throughout the exam. 
  • Your specially trained doctor will look at the inside of your colon with a colonoscope (thin, flexible tube with a camera), which is inserted through the anus. 
  • Your doctor will look for any polyps or other abnormalities.
  • If any polyps are found, they'll be removed, which helps prevent colon cancer. 
  • The procedure normally takes 15 to 30 minutes. 

After your colonoscopy:

  • We'll keep a close eye on you until most of the effects of your sedatives have worn off. It's normal to not completely feel like your normal self for the rest of the day.
  • You may experience mild cramping or bloating. This is due to air getting into your colon. It'll go away as you pass gas. 
  • You'll be given the results of the procedure before you leave. If your doctor took any biopsies during your procedure, you'll need to wait one to two weeks for those results.
  • You'll be able to resume your normal diet right away.
  • You won't be able to work or drive for the rest of the day. 
  • You may need to take antibiotics for a few days to prevent infection.
  • You'll need to avoid strenuous activity for a few days.