What it’s Like?

Prep and Prevention

Prep: What to expect before, during, and after a colonoscopy

Colonoscopies are an incredibly effective colon screening method, but many people find them intimidating. Familiarize yourself with the process to feel more comfortable with this particular test.

Before the colonoscopy

  • Do not eat any seeds, which can clog the scope, one week prior to the procedure
  • Obtain a laxative prescribed by your endoscopist
  • Consume laxative mixed with lots of water. Chill or flavour the mixture to ease consumption
  • Relax at home close to a restroom

During the colonoscopy

  • Test is painless and usually lasts under 30 minutes
  • Performed in a doctor’s office or hospital clinic
  • Sedation is offered
  • Scope will be inserted at the anus, into the rectum, and threaded through the entire colon
  • Procedure can be viewed on a TV screen
  • Colon will be examined for polyps
  • Suspicious polyps will be removed

After the colonoscopy

If you have had sedation…

  • You may be encouraged to take a nap
  • Arrange for someone to pick you up
  • Do not drive yourself home
  • Removal of polyps may cause some bleeding
  • Alert your doctor if bleeding persists
  • Polyps will be reviewed in a lab (many are benign)
  • If polyps are malignant, a specialist will “stage” the cancer and your doctor will discuss treatment options with you

Prevention: Lower your risk

A healthy diet, active lifestyle, and regular screening all lower your risk for developing colorectal cancer.

Eat more fibre
Aim for 5-10 half-cup servings of fruit or vegetables a day.

Limit your consumption of fat
Especially animal fat.

Limit red meat and avoid processed meats.

Boost your consumption of Omega-rich foods.

Talk to your doctor about whether you should take a low-dose, daily aspirin.
Studies show aspirin can reduce the incidence of polyps by 25%.

Consider taking supplements.
Preliminary research suggests that calcium carbonate (combined with magnesium, for better absorption), Vitamin D, Vitamin B-Complex, and folic acid tablets may help prevent colorectal cancer. Vitamin D is also easily obtained through the consumption of milk, salmon, and tuna.

Get plenty of exercise.
A sedentary lifestyle is linked to an increased incidence of colorectal cancer. Even 10 minutes of exercise a day has been shown to reduce the incidence of CRC.

Maintain a healthy weight throughout your life. 

Do not use tobacco and limit your alcohol consumption.

Learn your family’s health history.
Share it with your relatives.

Get regular, appropriate screening.
Learn about your options

Other helpful resources

The following websites are excellent resources for information on patient care and support, new research, and the latest articles on colorectal cancer and its treatment.

Cancer Care Ontario
CCO works with cancer care professionals and the Ontario government, driving continuous improvement in disease prevention and screening, the delivery of care, and the patient experience for chronic diseases.

Canadian Cancer Society
A national, community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer.

A network of centres that provide emotional and psychological support, free of charge, to individuals and families living with cancer.

Familial Gastrointestinal Cancer Registry
A family study centre at Mount Sinai Hospital for rare, inherited colorectal cancer syndromes. Established in 1980, this Registry provides information for Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP) and polyposis syndromes to affected families across Canada and news about research advances.

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