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What You Should Know: Colonoscopy

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The most effective way to examine the colon for polyps or early cancer is with a colonoscopy.

This common procedure allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your large intestine using a thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope.

Detecting and removing these polyps is a major step toward prevention of colon cancer.

Does it hurt?

Before the test, you will be given sedatives and pain medicine to make you sleepy and relaxed.

This will also minimize the pain, though you will feel some discomfort, including cramping or brief, sharp pains when the scope moves through your colon, or bloating that makes you feel the need to have a bowel movement and pass gas.

In all, a colonoscopy takes about 20 minute to perform, and most people say they do not remember very much about the test because of the sedative.

Do I need to do anything to prepare for a colonoscopy?

Once you have scheduled your colonoscopy, you will receive instructions from your doctor's office. Please read them carefully and call the doctor's office if you have any questions.

Proper preparation helps your doctor view your colon without blockage and can lessen any discomfort you might have during the procedure.

To preregister for your colonoscopy, call Patient Registration at (207) 626-1583 or toll-free (800) 343-3400.

What is considered a clear liquid diet?

Any liquid you can see through, such as broth, Jell-O, clear juice (apple, white grape), black tea and coffee, soda, Gatorade and popsicles are considered part of a clear liquid diet.

No red liquids (or red Jell-O) or alcohol such as wine, beer or hard liquor are permitted.

Can I take my medications?

Please make sure your doctor knows what current medications you are taking. Unless otherwise instructed, you may continue taking all medications.

Please refer to the prep instruction sheet or contact your doctor for further information.

What happens after a colonoscopy?

After the procedure, the doctor will explain the results of the examination, although you'll probably wait about two weeks for the results of any polyps or biopsy taken from the colon.

Because of the sedation given during the procedure, someone must drive you home.

It's helpful to have someone with you when the doctor explains the results because the sedation medication given during the procedure can make you forgetful.

You should not drive or work for the rest of the day, even if you feel alert after the procedure, because your judgment and reflexes could be impaired.

You might have some cramping or bloating because of the air introduced into the colon during the examination. This should disappear quickly when you pass gas.

Most people can resume their regular diet after the procedure.