Getting a Colonoscopy

A first-hand account of what it's like to have the procedure
Colonoscopy appointment on calendar

So if you haven’t heard already, March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. And if you have, you’ve probably also heard a few reminders that it’s time to get that colonoscopy you’ve been dreading.

As an employee of a health care institution, I consider it my professional obligation to inform you that I’ve had one, and it ain’t that bad. Want to hear more? Perhaps not, but I’ll tell you anyway.

Colonoscopies generally are recommended for people age 50 and older, since they account for about 90% of colorectal cancer cases. The procedure, which involves running a thin, tubelike instrument through the colon, helps doctors spot precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer.

As it happens, I wasn’t quite 50 when I had mine, but I had a few minor symptoms that might fall into the “cause for concern” category. My primary care doctor and gastroenterologist weren’t particularly alarmed, but they wanted to play it safe, and they figured I was close enough to my golden years to experience this rite of passage.

Prepping for the procedure

Roughly 24 hours leading up to my colonoscopy, I subsisted on chicken broth, ginger ale and lemon gelatin — the closest substance to solid food that I was allowed to eat.

Then, in the early evening, came the prep, a magical elixir that quite effectively ensures that your colon is squeaky clean.

While this part of the process isn't a ton of fun, the good news is that modern prep treatments taste better and come in smaller doses than their less palatable predecessors.

The big day

The procedure itself proved less eventful. I won’t pretend I wasn’t nervous — less about the colonoscopy than what it might find — but the nurses and doctor, and eventually a mild sedative, put me at ease.

Although some people reportedly remember next to nothing about the colonoscopy, I was awake and somewhat alert during at least part of mine — and I even watched the monitor along with the doctor and nurse. It was completely painless, and as it turned out, the doctor found nothing other than a mild case of diverticulosis.

I’ll be due for another one fairly soon, and when the time comes, I won’t fear or avoid it. You shouldn’t either.

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