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What to Expect During and After Your First Colonoscopy

 What to Expect During and After Your First Colonoscopy

Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosis — and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths — among men and women in the United States. 

 Fortunately, the death rate from colorectal cancer has been declining among middle-aged and older adults for several decades. Why? Largely because routine colonoscopies are so effective at finding the cancer early and removing polyps before they become cancerous.

As a board-certified general surgeon who offers colonoscopy services at Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy in Glendale, Arizona, Dr. Johnny Serrano knows it’s only natural to feel nervous about an upcoming colonoscopy — that’s why he’s here to set your mind at ease about what to expect during and after your procedure.  

Colonoscopy purpose and benefits

A colonoscopy is the gold-standard screening tool for colorectal cancer because it’s exceptionally thorough. Using a thin, flexible, lighted tube affixed with a tiny camera, the procedure checks for polyps and cancer cells inside your rectum and through your colon (large intestine). 

 Dr. Serrano can remove small to medium-sized polyps and some abnormal tissues during the procedure itself; larger polyps or abnormal masses may require a second procedure. Biopsied tissue is sent to a lab for evaluation. 

Until recently, adults who carried an average risk of developing colorectal cancer were advised to start having preventive screenings at the age of 50. Because colorectal cancer cases are on the rise among younger adults, however, the U.S. Preventive Task Force now recommends that average-risk adults begin colorectal cancer screenings at the age of 45.   

During your colonoscopy procedure

When you arrive at our office for your procedure, we confirm that you’ve completed your pre-colonoscopy prep — which includes adhering to a clear liquid diet and taking a liquid laxative as directed. This essential step helps clear your intestines for optimal visualization during the procedure. 

After you change into a gown, you lie comfortably on the exam table. We insert an IV into your arm so we can administer a sedative and pain relief medication directly into your bloodstream. Then, we have you lie on your side with your knees drawn to your chest. 

Next, Dr. Serrano inserts a thin, lubricated colonoscope into your rectum. Long enough to reach the entire length of your colon, this special lighted instrument has a tiny camera at its tip along with a hollow tube. This open channel allows Dr. Serrano to:  

 The air or carbon dioxide pump inflates your colon, giving Dr. Serrano a better view of its lining. At the same time, the camera transmits live, high-definition images to an external monitor so Dr. Serrano can study your colon lining.

When Dr. Serrano moves the scope or introduces air you may feel stomach cramping or the urge to have a bowel movement. This is normal. If he sees any polyps or areas of abnormal tissue, he may take a tissue sample (biopsy) or remove the polyps completely. 

Recovering after your colonoscopy

After your colonoscopy, you remain in our recovery room until the sedative effects wear off enough for you to go home. However, you may still feel tired or groggy for up to 24 hours, so someone else must drive you home. You shouldn’t drive the following day, either. 

You may feel gassy or bloated immediately after the procedure from the air or carbon dioxide that was pumped into your colon. You should start feeling normal as you release the air; most people feel fine within an hour. 

If Dr. Serrano took tissue samples or removed polyps, he may advise you to follow a special diet for a couple of days as your intestines heal. You can expect your first bowel movement to occur a day or two after the procedure; seeing a bit of blood in your stool is normal. 

However, you should contact our team if rectal bleeding persists longer than a day or seems significant — especially if you’re passing blood clumps or clots. You should also let us know if you develop severe abdominal pain, dizziness, or a fever.

Fortunately, colonoscopy complications are very rare. Most people don’t suffer any pain or serious discomfort during or after the procedure, and most also recover quickly.  

Waiting for your colonoscopy results

If Dr. Serrano took any biopsies or removed any polyps, he’ll let you know right after the procedure. However, he won’t be able to tell you exactly what he found until your lab test results come back—usually within a couple of weeks.  

Are you due for a colonoscopy? Our board-certified general surgeon in Glendale, Arizona, can help. Call 623-321-5663 or click online to schedule a visit with Dr. Serrano at Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy today.   

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