How Long Does a Colonoscopy Take?

Colonoscopies tend to be the “butt” of so many jokes that it’s hard to separate fact from fiction. Myths about colonoscopies can be funny, and they often fuel excuses to avoid this essential preventive screening.

patient waiting on exam table

So, do you know the facts about colonoscopies – or just the myths? Read on as we dispel the falsehoods and arm you with the facts about colonoscopies.

Myth: Colonoscopies take too long.

Fact: A colonoscopy procedure takes only 30 minutes.

Colonoscopies do not “take all day,” but it’s certainly understandable why people circulate this myth. The procedure itself takes only 15-30 minutes, but the colonoscopy prep and pre-op/post-op time commitment makes the procedure seem much longer. However, when you consider the years (or even decades) a colonoscopy can add to your life, the time spent on this life-saving procedure comes into perspective.

It may be tempting to opt for alternative colon cancer screening tests. However, a colonoscopy offers significantly more health benefits for similar cost, making it the recommended screening for colon cancer detection and prevention. Moreover, it’s the only colon cancer screening method that actually prevents cancer by allowing your doctor to remove precancerous colon polyps during the procedure. All colon cancer begins as a polyp, so no polyps mean no cancer! No test besides a colonoscopy can prevent you from getting colon cancer.

The Facts About Having a Colonoscopy

Everyone loves a good story with exaggerated details for humor and emphasis, but colonoscopy tales tend to lose credibility as they circulate. The best way to bust myths is to know the facts. Here are the facts regarding the steps of a colonoscopy and why each step is important:

Before the Colonoscopy

Staying colon cancer-free requires some work on your part, and that is the bowel preparation, also referred to as colonoscopy prep. Proper bowel prep is essential for an effective colonoscopy. For a full colon cleanse, you will need to follow the detailed instructions included in your bowel prep kit. You’ll need to adhere to a clear liquid diet in the hours prior to your colonoscopy. You can have some approved treats with specific restrictions. And there are ways you can make colonoscopy prep easier.

During the Colonoscopy

You should plan on spending two to three hours at your outpatient GI center on the day of your colonoscopy. You will need to arrive early for your appointment so you can check in and fill out paperwork. Once the nurse calls you back, the procedure will move along quickly. Most colonoscopies are performed with anesthesia or sedatives that put you to sleep, so you won’t even remember the procedure.

While under anesthesia, your GI doctor will examine the length of your colon for any signs of colon cancer or other diseases of the digestive system. At that time, the doctor will remove suspicious polyps to reduce your risk of cancer.

After the Colonoscopy

You will feel a little groggy upon awakening, but once you’re alert, you will get dressed and meet with your doctor to briefly go over your results. If no polyps are found and you have no family history of the disease, you won’t have to come back for another ten years.

A family member or friend must drive you home. The good news is that you can spend the rest of the day resting and eating a normal diet. The sedative will continue to wear off throughout the day, and you will be able to return to work the following day. 

24 hours for 10 years

Is 24 hours of your time worth 10 years of good health? When you look at it that way, is it really even a question? Don’t let myths drive your healthcare decisions. If you have questions about how a colonoscopy is done or when to get a colonoscopy, ask your gastroenterologist.