HEALTH Matters® Blog

Having a Colonoscopy? Know What to Expect

POSTED BY Dr. Robert Antonelle, Gastroenterologist
May 27, 2021  

Colonoscopies are pain free and a valuable health check.


Preparing for a colonoscopy can be stressful, but knowing what to expect when getting ready for a colonoscopy can make the procedure easier.

“Screening and having a colonoscopy are effective weapons against colon cancer. A colonoscopy can detect early-stage colorectal cancer, when it is easiest to treat,” says Dr. Robert Antonelle, Chief of Gastroenterology at White Plains Hospital. “It is one of the most widely used and trusted tests because it can detect polyps that can be removed before they turn into cancer.”

How to Prepare

A few days before the procedure, you’ll decrease the amount of food you eat. Your doctor may recommend that you eat only low-fiber foods like pasta, rice, white bread, chicken, fish, and well-cooked vegetables since they pass through the digestive system faster.

“The day before and the day of the procedure, you’ll be asked to only drink clear liquids, like tea, bouillon or some juices,” says Dr. Antonelle.

You’ll have to drink a liquid laxative the afternoon or evening before the procedure to clear your bowels. There are ways you can make drinking the liquid a little easier:

A cold prep goes down much easier. Make the laxative prep a day in advance and refrigerate it. If your prep liquid doesn’t come with a flavor packet, add Crystal Light or Kool-Aid powder.

What to Expect

It’s common to feel apprehensive about having a colonoscopy. Your doctor will give you pain and sedative medicine before the procedure to keep you relaxed and pain-free. The majority of patients sleep through the entire procedure, which usually takes 15 to 60 minutes and most people return to normal activities the day after the test.

“Most people don’t feel pain during the test but may feel cramping or discomfort afterward,” says Dr. Antonelle. “It’s often caused by the air that was puffed into the colon during the test to keep it open during the examination.”

Solving a Problem Early

If a polyp is found during a colonoscopy, your doctor will often remove it during the test or conduct a biopsy by taking a small piece of it out to check it for cancer or pre-cancer cells. The results of this tissue analysis will determine whether you need additional procedures or treatment. If nothing is found, you can go up to 10 years without another colonoscopy.

If you are over 45 you should take action to preserve your health and extend your life by speaking with a doctor or specialist about scheduling a colonoscopy.

Dr. Robert Antonelle is the Chief of Gastroenterology at White Plains Hospital, seeing patients at 311 North Street in White Plains and 99 Business Park Drive in Armonk. To make an appointment, call 914-849-7600.

Tags: colon cancer, colonoscopy, laxative, polyp, prep, procedure.