Your Colonoscopy: Everything You Need To Know

A colonoscopy with a Springfield Clinic doctor can typically be scheduled within two weeks of the initial consultation. Patients with acute symptoms, like blood in the stool, will be given the highest priority and worked in as soon as possible. 

Most screening colonoscopies are completed at Springfield Clinic's Ambulatory Surgery & Endoscopy Center by our colon and rectal surgeons and gastroenterologists.

To schedule your colonoscopy or for more information, call Springfield Clinic at 217.528.7541.

Below are some common questions and answers about colonoscopies.

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure that allows the physician to view the entire length of your colon.  You are sedated during the colonoscopy so it is painless and you remember none of it.  The physician uses a tube with a video camera at the end and moves it through your colon.  The physician can then view your colon on a monitor.  The physician will remove any polyps he/she sees, if you have any abnormal looking colon lining the physician will take biopsies. 

Why should I get a colonoscopy?

The average American has a 5% chance of getting colon or rectal cancer in their lifetime. That risk increases if someone in your family has had colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is a “silent” disease, in its’ early stages individuals rarely experience symptoms. By the time symptoms become noticeable, colorectal cancer is more difficult to cure.

In order to prevent or catch colorectal cancer in its early stages, individuals should get a screening colonoscopy. Screening means you are not having any. You get a screening colonoscopy purely based on your age. Average risk individuals should have a colonoscopy at age 50. If you are African American, you should have colonoscopy at 45. If you have a 1st degree relative with colorectal cancer, you should get you colonoscopy at age 40 or 10 years before your relative was diagnosed with the disease.

Symptoms such as change in bowel habits or blood in your bowel movements are another reason to get a colonoscopy. These colonoscopies are termed diagnostic colonoscopy. There is no difference in how a screening and diagnostic colonoscopy are done. The reason for the procedure is the only difference and primarily used for billing purposes.

What is the doctor looking for?

The physician looks for polyps and removes any that he/she finds. An adenoma is a type of polyp that is capable of developing into colorectal cancer. Many people call adenomas “precancerous polyps”. To be clear, these adenoma polyps ARE NOT cancer, but they do have the potential to turn into cancer. Do all adenomas turn into cancer? No. Do all cancers stem from adenomas? Most do. Therefore, you can see how getting a colonoscopy with removal of an adenoma can reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.

Are these polyps removed during the colonoscopy?

Most polyps can be removed during the colonoscopy.

Tell me the truth. Will this hurt?

Sedation is used during the colonoscopy. Therefore, you will feel nothing and remember nothing during the colonoscopy.

That all sounds great, but what about the bowel prep beforehand?

What is the bowel prep process?

Bowel prep is the process of cleaning out your colon before the colonoscopy. This process usually starts the day before your colonoscopy. In order for your colonoscopy to be the highest quality, you want your physician to have a good view of all of your colon lining. An excellent bowel prep allows an excellent colonoscopy. Following the instructions to the prep is vital for this goal.

You should avoid fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and beans for a few days before the colonoscopy because these food groups are difficult to clear out of the colon. You are always on a clear liquid diet ALL DAY on the day before the colonoscopy. Any bowel prep will cause you to have multiple loose bowel movements, which can be quite dehydrating, therefore drinking large amounts of clear liquids on the bowel prep day will help you feel better and provide a better bowel cleansing. Bowel preps are usually given in a split dose, meaning you drink the first half of the preparation the evening before the colonoscopy and the second half of the prep is taken 6 hours before your colonoscopy.

It is rare to have to drink large volume of awful tasting prep. Most physicians use the newer preps that are a smaller amount, but you must still drink large volume of clear liquids of your choice, i.e. juice, water, or sports drinks. This new approach of bowel cleansing (splitting the dose and lower volume of actual prep) is a big improvement over past preps.

Think of the bowel prep as the soap you use to clean your car. Without plenty of water that soap is not going to clean your car adequately. Large amounts of clear liquids are essential to any bowel prep.

Be honest. What does the prep taste like?

Preps do not taste great. However, low volume preps are only 5oz or 8oz, which is tolerable even if the taste is bad. Additionally, you can add a flavor enhancer to the prep like Mio.

What if I can't drink the whole thing?

It is important that you do. Take a break, pace yourself, drink hot tea, and suck on a peppermint. This problem is not as common as it used to be since the preps are lower in volume. Drinking the clear liquids of your choice has made it easier to drink all of the necessary liquids. We want to stress that the prep is vital to a high quality colonoscopy. A colon with residual stool left behind increases the chance that a precancerous polyp is missed at the time of the colonoscopy.

What will happen if I throw up?

Some people do throw up during their prep; this is when you should take a break (an hour or more). Drink hot tea, suck on a peppermint, or just rest. Make every attempt to drink all of the prep, AND all of the recommended amount of clear liquids.

This actually does not sound too bad. What happens after the colonoscopy?

If your doctor does not find anything...

If you have no polyps, you will not require another colonoscopy for 10 years. However, if you have a family history of colon cancer in mother, father, or siblings your recommendations are usually to repeat the colonoscopy in 5 years.

If your doctor does find a polyp…

Depending on the type of polyp, the size of polyp, or the number of polyps, your next colonoscopy could be in 6 months, 12 months, 3 years, 5 years, or 10 years. Your physician will call you or send you a letter explaining his/her recommendation.