Colonoscopy Time? It's Not *That* Bad. Seriously.

By Josh Bloom — Nov 01, 2021
Few words strike terror into the heart of 50-year-olds more than "colonoscopy." True, it’s a procedure that most of us do not look forward to. But it's very important, and in reality, not really that bad. For you "colonoscopy virgins” here are a few words of encouragement.
Photo: Wikimedia

Unlike politics, colonoscopies usually make for a safe and tasteful subject at dinner parties (1)

Unfortunately, this critically important cancer screen often elicits a rather negative response, especially for you "colonoscopy virgins." it's a pretty good bet that the image of "THAT is going up THERE" just doesn't sit too well.

But it's really not that bad. I know this. (While I'm reluctant to discuss my medical history, let's just say that before long, I'll be able to put this particular activity in my resume under hobbies.) Although the procedure isn't an all-paid Hawaiian vacation, it's better than watching the Yankees. This little poop pep talk is dedicated to those of you who are facing "The Big Scope" for the first time.

Here's what you'll experience:

  1. Someone will put a little IV needle in the back of your hand; it does not hurt.
  2. An anesthesiologist will inject a syringe full of milky white liquid into the IV; this does not hurt either.
  3. Try to count backward from 10.
  4. You better count fast, or you won't make it past seven.
  5. Then you'll be asking when it's time to start.
  6. By then, it will be over.
  7. You will be hungry.
  8. An hour later, you'll be walking out of the facility looking for a donut shop.

Does this sound scary? No, it's not, thanks to the coolest drug around: Propofol.

It is referred to as "milk of amnesia" because it looks just like the laxative, and most people wake up not having the wildest idea that anything has been done to them. Propofol is a great drug. Unlike traditional general anesthetics, it will not make you sick. In fact, it is sometimes used to combat nausea and vomiting after surgery.

It's also cleared from your blood very quickly, so you wake up very quickly and feel a little groggy, either very briefly or not at all. And, if the doctor sees any polyps in the colon, they will be removed (you won't know this happened either) – well before they become cancerous. Colon cancer is terrible to get but terribly easy to prevent.

The only downside to the whole thing is the day before: the prep. It is unpleasant, and there is no disputing that. But there are a number of different formulas, some worse than others. (See What Are The Worst (And Best) Colonoscopy Preps?) Of course, without the prep, which cleans you out (but good), the gastroenterologist will not be able to see what he/she is doing. There are a few foods you can eat that day, one of them being Jello (but not red). It is unlikely that you will ever crave Jello again.

All in all, it's not all that bad. You drink a bunch of nasty-tasting stuff, take a nap, eat donuts, and maybe avoid Jello for the rest of your life.

Almost 50,000 will die from colorectal cancer in a given year. Why be one of them?


(1) For example, you don't have to argue about which a##hole you support; there is only one!


Josh Bloom

Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science

Dr. Josh Bloom, the Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science, comes from the world of drug discovery, where he did research for more than 20 years. He holds a Ph.D. in chemistry.

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