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Updated March 15, 2020
A colonoscopy probably isn’t how you want to celebrate your 45th birthday, but it’s the best way to ensure you’re around for your 60th birthday and the decades to come.
For most people, it’s not the actual procedure that causes them to delay. It’s the day of dietary restrictions and diarrhea before the exam that sends people running in the other direction.
But one day of colonoscopy prep is nothing compared to the weeks and months of chemotherapy or radiation if you are diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer. The truth is, colon cancer is mostly preventable through regular colonoscopies, so don’t let the fear of colonoscopy prep get in the way of taking care of your health.
What is a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a screening test doctors use to look for suspicious growths or anything unusual in the rectum or colon generally starting at the age of 45. In fact, it’s the best way to prevent colon cancer and rectal cancer—or to catch either disease early when they are curable.
During a colonoscopy, a doctor uses a thin, lighted tube attached to a small video camera to see the inside of your rectum and colon. If a polyp or strange growth is found, they can remove it then and there, preventing the chances that it could develop into cancer.
Did you know we offer free colon cancer screenings for eligible patients? Call us today at 410-350-8216 to find out if you qualify.
Why is colonoscopy prep important?
Thoroughly preparing for your colonoscopy is important so that your doctor can get a clear view of your colon. If the colon isn’t completely emptied of waste, it’s harder to spot polyps or other early signs of colon cancer. If your doctor can’t see your entire colon, they may ask you to come back in one year for a repeat procedure.
How can I make colonoscopy prep easier?
Prepping for a colonoscopy can be inconvenient and uncomfortable, but it’s a lot better than it was ten years ago. While your prep may vary slightly based on your doctor’s recommendations, here are five ways to make colonoscopy prep easier.
Prepping for a #colonoscopy can be inconvenient, but it’s a lot easier than it was ten years ago. How did you make your prep easier? Michael Sickler shares his tips via @MedStarHealth’s #LiveWellHealthy blog:Click to Tweet
1. Be thoughtful about when you schedule your colonoscopy.
Since colonoscopy prep requires a liquid diet the day before the procedure, you probably don’t want to be tempted by a big Thanksgiving meal or birthday cake when you’re supposed to be restricting food. Avoid scheduling your colonoscopy around a special event or holiday so you’re more likely to stick to the dietary guidelines.
The time of day can help to make prep easier too. Since you can’t eat solid food on the day of your procedure, it may be a good idea to schedule your colonoscopy for the morning so you don’t have to wait until the afternoon or evening to eat.
Is it time to schedule your colonoscopy? Call 877-715-HOPE to find out if you qualify.
2. Find creative ways to fill up on the liquid diet.
You’re more likely to slip up on your prep diet if you’re hungry, so make sure you’re consuming a high number of calories from your liquid options. You can’t eat any solid food, but you can consume an unlimited amount of clear liquids which may include:
- Black coffee or tea
- Clear sodas (e.g., sprite or ginger ale)
- Clear juice (e.g., apple or white grape),
- Pulp-free lemonade
You can also have popsicles, Jell-O, and sports drinks, but steer clear of certain colors, like red, purple, or blue.
3. Chill and add flavor to the medication drink.
You’ll need to drink a laxative medication over about four hours starting at 4 p.m. the day before your colonoscopy. Your doctor will direct you to drink the entire container of solution which will ensure your colon is as clear as possible when you go in for your screening. It may look visually overwhelming but there are a few things you can do to make it easier to drink, such as:
- Use a straw
- Chill the drink in the refrigerator
- Mix in Crystal Light (avoiding flavors that are red or purple)
- Drink from a cup rather than straight from the jug
4. Make the bathroom as comfortable as possible.
Once prep begins, you’ll be spending a lot of quality time in the bathroom. Try the following tips to pass the time as comfortably as possible:
- Stock up on quality, soft toilet paper and wet wipes
- Wear loose, comfy clothing
- Bring entertainment (e.g. crossword puzzles, book, phone, or tablet)
5. Do it right the first time.
Your colon needs to be completely clear when you go in for your colonoscopy. If you don’t stick to the dietary guidelines or don’t consume all of the prep liquid, your doctor may not be able to see the colon wall where polyps are likely to hide. If your doctor doesn’t get a good look at your entire colon, you may find yourself re-doing the dreaded prep again in a year.
However, if you follow your physician’s instructions for colonoscopy prep, your doctor is more likely to get an unobstructed view of your colon. As long as you don’t have any polyps or signs of cancer, you won’t need another colonoscopy for ten years.
Then, celebrate making your health a priority.
After you successfully complete prep and colonoscopy, it’s time to celebrate. You’ve taken your health into your own hands by getting screened for colon cancer, and it could save your life. While colonoscopy prep may not have been enjoyable, it’s a small price to pay for doing the right thing for your health.