About this Procedure

A colonoscopy is a safe, private and usually painless procedure that takes about 30 minutes to complete. A colonoscopy may be done in a hospital outpatient department, clinic or in a doctor’s office.

During the procedure, a general surgeon or gastroenterologist (a doctor who specializes in identifying and treating gastrointestinal diseases) uses a colonoscope to see the entire colon. A colonoscope is a long, flexible tube. If a polyp is found, the doctor may remove it during your colonoscopy.

During your colonoscopy, the doctor may use the colonoscope to take a biopsy – a small tissue sample – if anything looks abnormal. The tissue sample will be sent to the lab for further testing.


Preparing for a Colonoscopy

For the test to be effective, the colon and rectum must be empty and clean.

You will take medication to clean out your colon the day before the test and may be prescribed an enema that morning. Your doctor will give you instructions to help you prepare for your colonoscopy. Read the instructions carefully a few days before your colonoscopy since you may need to shop for special supplies and get laxatives from a drug store. If you have any questions, call your doctor’s office to review instructions with the nurse.

Many patients find the bowel preparation to be the most unpleasant part of the test. The medication you take to clean out your colon will most likely cause you to be in the bathroom quite a bit. You may be given other instructions, too, such as foods to avoid before the test.