If none of these apply to you, your doctor will explain any other reasons there may be for having this test.
It should take 30 to 45 minutes to have your colonoscopy. But you might be at the hospital for around 2 hours from getting there to going home.
It is important that you are comfortable during the procedure to ensure that the endoscopist can perform the procedure successfully.
Some people opt to have a sedative to make them drowsy and relaxed for the procedure.
Alternatively, you could have gas during the procedure which will help to ease any pain or discomfort and has a calming effect.
This means you will still be awake, but will be drowsy and have reduced awareness about what’s happening.
We know some people can feel anxious or worried when they are told they need a colonoscopy but it is important to have this test if you are referred. Bowel Cancer UK have launched a Colonoscopy Confidence campaign to explain what colonoscopy is. Visit Bowel Cancer UK to view their Colonoscopy Confidence resources.
While you wait
While you are waiting for your colonoscopy, ensure you maintain a healthy diet, reduce alcohol and consider stopping smoking. Try and avoid being too constipated by taking laxatives regularly if needed. This will also help to ensure that your bowel is fully emptied when you take the bowel preparation before the procedure. Avoid any food that make your bowel symptoms worse. If you are being investigated for diarrhoea, ensure that you are drinking plenty of fluids to remain hydrated.
Once your colonoscopy is scheduled, the hospital will send you some instructions about how to prepare. It is extremely important that your bowel is completely empty before a colonoscopy to allow adequate inspection of the lining of your colon. If you are taking iron tablets then stop these 7 days before the test.
For 2 days before a colonoscopy, you should only eat plain foods like:
- plain chicken not in a sauce
- white rice, pasta or bread
- clear soup
You will find the necessary information on your letter from the hospital.
The day before your colonoscopy you’ll need to drink sachets of laxatives to empty your bowels ready for the test.
- need to drink a few sachets
- need to drink the sachets at different points throughout the day
- get diarrhoea a few hours after taking the first sachet. Stay at home and be near a toilet after you’ve started drinking the laxatives.
It is very important to follow the instructions within your letter from the hospital, otherwise the specialist may not be able to do your colonoscopy. If you have any questions about the instructions when you receive them, get in touch with your hospital team.
What should you do if your health is deteriorating?
If you develop NEW symptoms such as blood mixed in your stools, severe pain, not passing stools or wind, or rapid weight loss then contact your GP or specialist as you may need a more urgent review. Equally, if you have existing symptoms that have changed in nature or deteriorated quickly then you should seek further advice and reassessment.
If your appointment has come through but your condition is getting worse, you should contact the hospital team or Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS). The number and email for this should be on the hospital appointment letter.
If you haven’t yet received your hospital appointment and your condition is getting worse, you should contact your GP practice. Your GP cannot get you seen quicker at the hospital as they don’t have access to the waiting list or appointment system.
However, if your condition is getting worse or if you are experiencing new symptoms they can assess the situation, give you some advice and may be able to update your specialist to consider upgrading your procedure.
Alternatively, the NHS 111 service is available if you have a medical problem and aren’t sure what to do. To access NHS 111, visit 111.nhs.uk or call 111. The service operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
BSL users can use the NHS video interpreter service