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Getting A Colonoscopy? Not a Bad Experience and Prevent Colon Cancer Too

Updated on December 10, 2012


One day at work I was talking to a man who was about sixty years old. He told me he'd never had a colonoscopy. He sounded as if he was apprehensive about the procedure. This is completely understandable. Anyone who envisions themselves enjoying a pipe with a camera on the end of it rammed up their butt probably should be committed.

I assured him that this was nothing to worry about. I had one within the last year and it really wasn't as horrible as I thought it would be

Butt Problems

At the time of my colonoscopy I was 38 years old. I'm a guy. A few months before my colonoscopy I started having what I affectionately termed "butt problems".

Let's just say that things coming out in the bathroom didn't appear as, eh, elegant compared to years past. The process of going included bleeding in addition to other problems that the old high fiber diet just couldn't cure.

I visited my doctor. He prodded as they do and recommended a colonoscopy.

The Gastroenterologist

I quickly learned that just because your family doctor orders you a colonoscopy, it doesn't mean you are going to simply get one. You next have to visit a gastroenterologist.

Gastroenterologist. Quite a word isn't it? I'm not exactly sure of the Webster's dictionary definition but basically a gastrointestinologist is a special breed of person that can stare up people's colons all day long and still kiss his or her spouse at night.

Getting an appointment did take a couple of months. When I finally did meet the gastroenterologist the actual discussion with the doctor took about 5 minutes.  I had to schedule a colonoscopy exam.

Getting a Chauffeur

When you schedule a colonoscopy exam be sure to consider the schedule of a friend or loved one who can drive you. You will absolutely need a driver. The doctors office will not let you take a taxi or drive with a stranger, they'd actually prefer you produce a serial criminal that is truly your friend than use any public transportation.

To further this point, the doctors office the day of your colonoscopy will ask you to produce your driver and they will ask that person directly what relation (friend, spouse, brother, etc) he or she is to you. If you can't produce a driver, they will refuse your colonoscopy exam. The last thing you'll ever want is to reschedule this exam the day of the exam. After you read below about the colonoscopy preparation, you'll understand. Seriously, I'd rather postpone my wedding the day of the wedding than postpone a colonoscopy the day of the exam.

Give Yourself the Day Off

Another consideration when scheduling a colonoscopy is your work schedule. The doctor will tell you that you'll have to take the day off that day. If he tells you to take the day off, believe me, take the day off. You'll find out more below.

Days Leading Up to the Colonoscopy

About a week before my procedure I started some scheduled dietary restrictions. Not a big deal. I won't get too into detail on this since your restrictions may differ. I'm not trying to give you medical advice. Just trying to give you an idea of what you may experience (none of which is all that horrible). That said, the restrictions were a piece of cake.

Be sure to follow any instructions the doctor gives you to exact detail. They'll tell you if you don't follow the guidelines they give you, you may have to reschedule your appointment.

The 5-20 hours or so Leading Up to The Colonoscopy

The hours leading up to the colonoscopy was probably the toughest part. Even tougher than the procedure.

I won't get into details since I don't want this article taken as colonoscopy instruction, but basically the 20 hour lead-up involves lots of laxatives that the doctor will instruct you on.

You may have heard that the colonoscopy 'drink' tastes horrible. In my case, this is completely wrong. Even the hospital told me this is a misconception left over from years ago when the drink tasted bad.  Mine was fine and had a good flavor.

That said, the drink will, eh, clear you out, totally. Very totally. I think I ran-to-the-can literally about 15 times. Whatever you do during the drink, stay home. Don't walk across the street to buy cigarettes, don't drive to the MAC machine, stay close to the bathroom. If you have more than one bathroom in your home, reserve it for yourself. If you only have one bathroom, then sell your family into slavery for the day so you have it to yourself. I'm telling you, when you have to go, you'll just go. Simply walking around the living room will, eh, inspire your system to go. Seriously.

If there's any consolation to the 'going' part, it is by far the worst phase. The exam actually is easier.

Be careful to follow they give you closely. The last thing you'll want to do after going a million times is have to cancel and do it all again soon.

Hours Before the Exam

Make sure your driver gets to your place early and gets you to the hospital early for the exam. By this time you should be all cleaned out so to speak. If you are like me, you'll also be tired from all the, eh, activity. You'll be glad someone drove you. It'll give you a bit of a rest.

Hour Before the Exam

My experience in the hospital was very good. I was taken good care of and made to feel at ease. They explained what was going to happen and things were very professional yet comforting. All the other patients in the office were there for the same thing so there wasn't any strange feeling like, "Wow. I'm the only guy here about to get pogo'd."

In my case, they had me put on a gown, lay on a table under a cover. They put an IV in me and wheeled me into the examination room

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The Exam

Here's the best part. At least in my case, the exam was nothing. They gave me some sort of anesthesia and it knocked me right out.

Literally as fast as my eyes closed, they opened and the exam was over. I have no idea how long the colonoscopy took. It may have been hours for all I know but it felt as though I just blinked.

Immediately following the exam they give you a little snack and fruit juice and tell you their findings.

For me, they removed a polyp and took a biopsy which is basically removing a piece of your colon for examination at a lab. I had no discomfort besides a little gas which lasted a few hours.

Some people ask me if it felt like my butt got railroaded and, seriously, I had no discomfort at all even with the polyp removal and biopsy.  I thought I'd be walking all hunched over with a limp. I had no bad feeling afterward.


Probably the best advise the doctor gave me leading up to the exam was to bring a driver and take the day off work.

After the exam, at least in my case, I felt lethargic and dumb. I didn't feel bad at all but I did feel actually quite stupid. Between being tired, hungry and the anesthesia the last thing I could have ever done was drive a car, let alone go to work. It seriously would have been a disaster.

If You Need One, GET ONE. It's Easy

My whole purpose of this whole article is to give you an idea of what to expect with your colonoscopy exam and hopefully put your thoughts at ease since the procedure isn't nearly as bad as you think it is going to be.

It's your body, so take care of it.


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    • TurtleDog profile image

      TurtleDog 2 years ago

      Best of wishes Rosie ! Its really no biggie as far as the exam. best of luck to mom too. Thanks

    • Rosie writes profile image

      Rosie writes 2 years ago from Virginia

      Love your hub and humor interlaced throughout! My mom was diagnosed with colon cancer last December. I wrote a hub about her ordeal soon after. I am scheduled for a colonoscopy next week - wish me well!

    • TurtleDog profile image

      TurtleDog 2 years ago

      great, great review of your procedural thanks

    • profile image

      NeverAgainUgh 2 years ago

      I am 65 yo, and had a screening sigmoidoscopy about 15 years ago. A sigmoidoscopy had a minimal prep, nothing like what I have heard like that for a colonoscopy from those who have had that torture.

      I had no sedation per doctor's normal practice, and I went in with without any anxiety. Once the MD introduced the scope though, I was found it SO EXCRUCIATING NASTY. Just thinking about it is like PTSD. The nurse told me immediately after the torture that I should have been sedated as I was so uncomfortable. I should have asked her why she didn't advocate the MD to stop, but I didn't. It felt like the MD probably had a couple of kids at some private college and the tuition was due, so he was stopping for nothing.

      Of course, that was my last scope of any sort, and I will not subject myself to an MD that is so callous ...... plus that prep has always been described as an 11 on pain scale of 1-10. If I die of colon cancer, than it is on that first MD's total sense of callousness.

      Since I had my back turned, I cannot say what was done to me. My imagination tells me that a small rodent with sharp little claws was shoved up inside, and then it spent a llooooooonnnnggg time scurrying around and around until it FINALLY found its way out.


    • Efficient Admin profile image

      Efficient Admin 3 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      I could have written this as mine was exactly as you said, except my doctor recommended the procedure when I hit a certain age even though I didn't have any symptoms. The worst part of it was the drinking the liquid to clean you out and only be able to eat jello and broth (and it had to be green or yellow jello only). I was surprised that I wasn't even that hungry after the procedure. Of course the day before when I couldn't eat anything I was starving all day LOL. Once I fell asleep, I woke up and it was all over. I felt fine - not drowsy but took the day off anyway.

    • TurtleDog profile image

      TurtleDog 5 years ago

      Sorry to hear about your experience or, if not your own experience, the story of someone elses colon screening. I agree, you don't want to talk anyone out of this. My procedure went well and if a doctor says you need one you should get one. I didn't have any medical staff tell me to keep quiet or try to intimidate me in anyway out of how I felt. Overall a good experience and likely the norm rather than the exception but exceptions, as you stated, do happen. Like anything, try to find a reputable hospital for this procedure through a doctor you trust (and hope that your insurance covers it fully :-) Thanks for the great comment LavJade!

    • profile image

      LavJade 5 years ago

      What was described here is what is SUPPOSED to happen. Things don't always go as planned, especially with some of the sedation drugs. I do not want to talk anyone out of a colonoscopy, but it should also be mentioned that some of us do indeed have bad experiences. We are given no compassion or understanding, and constantly told to keep quiet so we don't scare anyone. That just causes fear and mistrust of medical people.

    • TurtleDog profile image

      TurtleDog 5 years ago

      Hi Anthony! ... or I'm guessing Dr. Anthony? ;-) Thanks for the amazing comments. I may be using cancer "prevention" a little loosely but I figure the detection of pre-cancerous polyps and removal to be preventative, though I might be misguided in my medical venacular here.

      What is it that you ultimately recommend for mass screening? For example, do you suggest fecal DNA procedure to replace the colonoscopy screening that people tend to get after 50?

      Thanks again for the comment.

    • Anthony Howe profile image

      Anthony Howe 5 years ago from Mooresville, North Carolina

      I am not anti-colonoscopy but some of the comments here are a bit ignorant

      1. Colonoscopies do NOT prevent CRC. They may reduce likelihood and we don't have the controlled studies that prove even this. It's the "standard of care" problem (cannot ethically withhold).

      2. Visual inspection methods are problematic. The miss rate is high (double digits). Add less than perfect prep and you have a problem.

      3. Not all CRC follows polyp model (20-30% does not). Most polyps grow in the 1-5 mm band and regress in the 5-9 mm band. Our insane hunt for dysplasia when we have no idea which is dangerous is a feature of our cancer screening regimen overall. It's ridiculous (e.g. false positive rates for mammograms 40-49 is approx 40% and lifetime risk of false positive from PAP smears is 85%). Bad medical technology but we want it all (and we want it now).

      4. Screening guidelines are a joke. Incidence for men is 35-40% higher and onset 10 years earlier. But gender is not accounted for ? Add risk factors and mitigants to this complaint. Aspirin, exercise, weight loss, vitamin D3, calcium all reduce risk. Way too much made of family history (age at diagnosis matters folks). A polypy or CRC first degree relative with onset at 70 represents a different risk for you than onset at 50. Just not a big genetic component here (risk elevation for polypy first degree is in the 1.5-2x band and CRC relative is likely 2.1x).

      5. Scopists fighting alternatives like hell. Fecal DNA being held to a higher standard of proof than c-scopes. You won't hear your gastro mention risk mitigants listed above.

      6. This is surgery for a MASS SCREEN. Bizarre. Serious adverse incident rates are 0.25%. Sounds good until you multiply that by several million procedures annually. Ooops.

      7. Gastros like biopsies and samples but unless it's a polyp it isn't billable. So many people running around with 5 year re-test frequency because of suspect 2 mmm polyps. Studies show that testing frequency is too rapid relative to guidelines.

      8. Unnecessarily immodest particularly for the ladies. There's a lot you aren't told about the procedure and there's no advocate and no audit trail. You are likely to repositioned. Women, and there's no easy way to say this, your stuff is exposed because it's so close to work area and you're in left lateral chair position. All is easily fixed with colonoscopy shorts and modified robes but that $25 of extra cost is not to be tolerated (so you're shamed into accepting it).

      Just the other side of the coin. Not the right approach for a MASS SCREEN I'm afraid. Glad they exist for the symptomatic certainly.

    • TurtleDog profile image

      TurtleDog 6 years ago

      Thanks Lily_S I hope everything goes well for you!

    • profile image

      Lily_S 6 years ago

      Thanks for posting this. I'm scheduled to have one soon and I'm feeling quite anxious about it. I've had one before, but that was as a child so I was under general anaesthetic and completely oblivious to the whole thing. Your post has helped calm my nerves!

    • TurtleDog profile image

      TurtleDog 6 years ago

      Excellent comment!! I'm sorry I couldn't convince you about seeing your doctor about an exam. I hope you change your mind and decide to live a long life into antiquity! But it is not just about living a long time either. It is quality of life. Avoid a colonoscopy today and risk possiblity risk losing your colon for the next twenty or thirty years or longer. Instead of dying, you could wearing a colostomy bag and/or diapers for the next twenty or thirty years. Trust me, pooping yourself in public forever will be much more uncomfortable than the couple hour exam :-)

      When my procedure was over I asked my doctor why everyone says the process is so horrible since I didn't find it so terrible. He replied that it really is just people who are older and haven't had the exam for a number of years. The process is much better now and keeps getting better. Hopefully your wife keeps it up.

      Thanks again for the comment!

    • profile image

      Somnolence 6 years ago

      Well, you haven't convinced me and neither has my wife. She has had a few, myself I haven't been to the doctor in nearly ten years for anything, and I'm 57. I don't really want to live into antiquity anyway.

    • TurtleDog profile image

      TurtleDog 7 years ago

      Thank you so much kimh039 for sharing with us! Yeah, I was completely knocked out during the procedure (a good thing) but gosh I was dopey afterward .... then again..... I'm not all the bright to begin with :-) Only temporary though. I was back at the Mensa club the next day ;-0

      Thanks for stopping by! Glad to hear you have set up another appointment! Best of luck!

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 7 years ago

      You took us right through the whole ordeal. I had my first last year and since there were polyps, I get to go this year too! I have to remember to pick up my Kool Aid this week - that's what I call that stuff you have to drink. I don't remember feeling that loopy following the procedure. The Dr did say there could be temporary memory problems as a result of the anesthesia. I don't remember any memory problems!! The Dr said my adult children should get theirs when they're 40 since I had polyps, which are pre cancerous, and colon cancer is genetic. I don't know anyone in my family who had colon cancer, though. Thanks for writing this turtle dog. It's kind of strange sharing about my colonoscopy experience and listening to others' experiences. It really wasn't that big of a deal. I'm glad I'm going again cause some of the benefits have worn off!

    • TurtleDog profile image

      TurtleDog 7 years ago

      Thanks Just Ask Susan! Glad it turned out well for you. I was worried about the prospect of bad results and mine turned out fine too. Thanks for the comment!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Great article. I had one booked and cancelled because I thought I was to be awake during the procedure. Then a few years ago I finally had one done and am happy to say, that it turned out with good results.

    • profile image

      jaytee7720 7 years ago

      Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experience. I've been putting off having one as I approached 50. I am female and have irregular BM.. also some symptoms of gastroendonitis. I have scheduled an Appt. to see a gastroenterologist in Sept.(long wait for an Appt.) from your article I'm encouraged to proceed with a colonoscopy if my doctor recommends it. I've been fearful and worry about polyps.. I believe I have some rectal one's... Also,I'am now more aggresively changing my eating habits to more high fiber, fruits & vegetable. Thanks for the heads up on your experience.. sincerely jaytee!!!in NYC

    • rkhyclak profile image

      rkhyclak 7 years ago from Ohio

      Great article :) It's definitely not as bad as many make it out to be and can be life-saving!