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Colonoscopy: What Are You Afraid Of?

Tuesday, Mar 18, 2014
Gastroenterologist Sandhya Salguti, MD, answers your questions and concerns about colonoscopy.

Why is colonoscopy important?

Colon cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. About 90 percent of deaths can be prevented through early detection—colonoscopy— and treatment.

Why don’t more people have a colonoscopy?


Most people who avoid having a colonoscopy are scared—of the possible test results, the bowel preparation and the procedure. Everyone over age 50 should have a colonoscopy and followup colonoscopies as recommended by their physician. Individuals with risk factors, such as a personal or family history of cancer, are often advised to start sooner.

What is it like to prepare for and have a colonoscopy?

Most people say that the worry is worse than the preparation and test. A successful colonoscopy requires a clean colon. One day before the test, you will stop eating solid foods, and drink only clear fluids such as water, tea, coffee, clear juices, clear broths, Popsicles and gelatin (but nothing red or purple). Starting the evening before the procedure, you take a liquid that clears out your bowels. Specific instructions depend on the bowel prep prescribed, the time of your colonoscopy and any prior experience with bowel preps.

The overwhelming majority of people are asleep during a colonoscopy. The sedative puts you into a pleasant, sleepy, relaxed state in which you don’t feel or remember anything.

Is there anything new that makes the prep easier?

Low-volume bowel preps work for most people. Instead of taking a whole gallon (4 liters) of liquid the night before the colonoscopy, low volume bowel preps require you to drink only 2 to 3 liters of liquid—a more manageable amount.

Learn more about colorectal cancer screening guidelines and schedule an appointment.

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