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Colonoscopies are performed for different reasons. Sometimes, a colonoscopy is performed in response to specific symptoms, like belly pain or rectal bleeding, to check for issues like ulcerative colitis, polyps or cancer. Other times, colonoscopy may be performed to screen for colon cancer, looking for tiny growths called polyps, which may eventually become a cancerous tumor if not treated early.
The day prior to your colonoscopy, you'll need to observe dietary restrictions and take medication to help clear your bowels so the lining of the colon can be seen clearly during the exam. The medication may be provided as a liquid or as pills. During this “prep” period, you'll need to have regular and immediate access to a bathroom so your bowels can be emptied as the medicine takes effect. Once you arrive for your colonoscopy, sedation will be provided through an IV to help you sleep through the procedure. A lighted flexible tube called a colonoscope will be inserted through your anus and rectum and used to evaluate your entire colon. Small polyps may be removed and biopsies (tiny tissue samples) may also be taken. During the procedure, air will be used to gently inflate your colon to make it easier to see the lining. Most colonoscopies take about 30 to 45 minutes. Once the colonoscopy is complete, you'll remain in a recovery area for a brief period of time before being released. Because of the sedation, you'll need to have someone drive you home.
Once the procedure is complete, you may have some minor bloating or discomfort until the air is expelled from your colon or during the prep period as your bowel is emptying. During the actual procedure, you'll be sedated so you won't experience discomfort.
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