What to Expect
We recommend everyone age 50 and over get a screening colonoscopy. This is because colon cancer commonly develops beginning in middle age. Our expert physicians and other team members strive to make the experience as comfortable for you as possible.
Here is some information to ease your mind about what will happen before, during and after your procedure:
What is Colonoscopy?
Colon cancer is the third most-common cancer found in men and women. It occurs most often after age 50.
A colonoscopy procedure allows a gastroenterologist to examine your colon (large intestine) for inflammation, pre-cancerous polyps and cancer tumors. For most people, this test only needs to be done once every ten years.
If your colonoscopy reveals pre-cancerous polyps, your doctor can remove them during the procedure. This eliminates the chance of these polyps becoming cancerous.
Colonoscopy Prep: Before Your Procedure
Your doctor will provide detailed instructions about what to eat and how to cleanse your bowel the day before the colonoscopy. Follow these instructions carefully.
Colonoscopy prep has changed over the years. Many of our doctors use the “split prep” protocol.
This method means you don’t have to drink a large quantity of prep in a single dose the night before your procedure. Instead, you drink smaller quantities in two doses, which patients report is much more tolerable.
What to Expect When You Arrive for Your Colonoscopy
At Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, we perform hundreds of colonoscopies every year. Our streamlined process makes your experience as comfortable and pleasant as possible. Here’s what you can expect:
- When you arrive, you will register at the front desk. It’s the only desk inside the front door, so you don’t have to worry about navigating a maze of corridors to get to the right place.
- You can then relax in the waiting area until you are called.
- One of our friendly nurse specialists will escort you to the changing area, where you will put on a hospital gown. Next, you will meet the rest of your care team.
Meeting Your Colonoscopy Care Team
After you have put on a hospital gown and are relaxing in a bed, you will meet the rest of your colonoscopy team, including:
- An expert anesthesiologist and certified nurse anesthetist, who will give you medications allowing you to sleep through the procedure
- Your physician, who will greet you in the pre-op area, explain your procedure and answer any questions you may have before you go back to the colonoscopy suite
- Skilled and experienced nurses and technicians, who work together every day to ensure your comfort and safety before, during and after the procedure.
When Your Colonoscopy Is Finished
- When you wake up after the colonoscopy, you will be in an outpatient recovery area. You won’t remember anything from the procedure.
- Your family or friends will be allowed to visit you in the recovery area.
- Once you have sufficiently woken up, you will be able to dress and go home. You must have someone else drive you home, because it can take several hours for the effect of anesthesia to fully wear off.
The entire process generally takes around two hours to complete, from arrival to discharge. The colonoscopy procedure itself takes about 20 minutes. The remainder of the time is for pre-colonoscopy evaluation and recovery after the procedure.
However, there are times when it will take longer and a short wait is possible. You then can go home and relax for the rest of the day.
Your Colonoscopy Results
- If your doctor found no polyps or other abnormalities in your colon, he or she will tell you that before you leave the hospital.
- If your doctor removed polyps, they will be sent to our pathology department for analysis. The presence of polyps is nothing to be alarmed about. Many people who have polyps never develop colon cancer.
Your doctor will provide your pathology results at a later time, usually by letter or by telephone call. He or she also will recommend a course of action, such as repeating the colonoscopy in a few years.
If colon cancer is detected, your doctor will tell you exactly what steps will be taken to treat you.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist, call Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital at 314.542.WEST (9378) or toll-free at 844.542.9378.
We are conveniently located just one mile west of I-270 on Olive Blvd., at Olive and Mason in Creve Coeur, Missouri - a west county suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. Get directions to our hospital.