Patient Education

What is a Colonoscopy?

A potentially lifesaving procedure in need of a better reputation.


A colonoscopy is a routine, generally safe, and relatively painless procedure that allows healthcare providers to see the lining of the colon. There’s a little dread surrounding a colonoscopy, but it could save your life. A colonoscopy is the gold standard for detection and prevention of colorectal cancer (CRC).

The risk of CRC

  • CRC is the third leading cause of death from cancer in the US
  • On average, 1 in 20 people are at risk for CRC (this can vary widely according to individual risk factors)
  • An estimated in 1 in 3 people diagnosed with CRC in the US die

A colonoscopy can prevent CRC

  • A colonoscopy is one of the only cancer screenings where potential cancers can be removed during the exam
  • Up to 90% of all CRC cases and deaths are preventable with early detection through timely screening
  • A colonoscopy can also help healthcare providers diagnose other gastrointestinal disorder

How to Prepare for a Colonoscopy

To ensure a successful exam, please follow all instructions carefully. You MUST arrange a ride for the day of your exam. If you fail to arrange acceptable transportation, your procedure will need to be rescheduled. If you have diabetes, ask your physician for diet and medication instructions. If you are or may be pregnant, please discuss the risks and benefits of this procedure with your doctor.

Please bring a list of all of your current medications, including any over-the-counter medications with you. If you must cancel or reschedule your appointment, please call in as soon as possible.


Why should I get a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is the gold standard for detection and prevention of CRC, the third leading cause of death from cancer in the US.

A colonoscopy can help your healthcare provider find and remove polyps in the colon before they develop onto cancer. If cancer is already present, finding it early before it causes symptoms or spreads can increase your chances of a full recovery
Since the mid-1980s, the death rate for CRC has been dropping due in part to increased awareness and screenings, like colonoscopies.

How quickly will the effects of the prep and the colonoscopy wear off?

The effects of the prep may last for a few hours after you finish it. After your procedure, you may feel some bloating and pass some gas. This is due to air being introduced during the procedure to help the colonoscope pass into your colon. These symptoms should subside within a few hours. The effects of sedation may take longer to fully wear off. Don’t plan on driving or operating machinery until after you’ve had a full night’s sleep.

Is a colonoscopy painful?

During the procedure, your healthcare team will make you as comfortable as possible. You’ll be fitted with an IV (intravenous line) to give you medication to sedate you. Patients typically feel little to no pain during the exam.

When should I get a colonoscopy?

The American Cancer Society recommends everyone, starting at age 50, get a colonoscopy every 10 years. That’s for people with average risk. Your healthcare provider will determine if you’re at higher risk and need a colonoscopy sooner or more frequently.