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A colonoscopy can save your life…and the prep doesn’t have to be that bad

Posted on by J. David Horwhat, MD

 

If you're 50 or older, you probably know you should get a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is the most effective way to screen for colon cancer. It also allows your gastroenterologist the opportunity to detect, prevent, and potentially treat colon cancer all at the same time, removing any polyps (finger-like growths) at an early stage before they become cancerous.

But if you’re like many people, you may be putting off this life-saving test because of the preparation needed beforehand. In fact, apprehension about the prep is the #1 reason people give for delaying a colonoscopy.

To complete a colonoscopy, your colon must be clean – the cleaner the better, as this gives your doctor the best view. The actual test, performed while you're sedated, is painless; but admittedly, the preparation can be trying. You will be required to take laxatives and forgo solid food for a day or two before the exam.

However, there are 9 steps you can take to make the prep more tolerable:

  • First and foremost, follow your doctor’s dosing instructions. Read through all of the directions before you begin, and if you don’t understand something, call and ask.
  • Start a pre-colonoscopy diet several days in advance. By avoiding high-fiber food, fatty foods, seeds and tough meats, the laxative part of the prep (the day before your test) is much easier.
  • Stock your bathroom with enjoyable reading material, and perhaps a candle in your favorite scent. You’ll be spending more time than usual in the bathroom, so why not make it a more relaxing environment.
  • Wear comfortable clothing that will not interfere with getting to the bathroom in time if an urgent need strikes you. The prep solution may also cause temporary bloating, so a loose waistband is a good idea.
  • Mix the prep. There are lots of ways to make the laxative more appetizing. Chill it in the refrigerator. Mix with a favorite sports drink. Use a favorite glass.
  • Try drinking your prep through a straw to bypass the taste buds in the front of your mouth.
  • Drink the prep at a comfortable pace. It is more of a slow walk than a sprint and drinking it too fast may lead to bloating, nausea and for some, vomiting. If you do not keep down all of the prep, the results may not be satisfactory.
  • Use lubricated baby wipes rather than toilet tissue. The wipes are gentler and less irritating.
  • And finally, pat yourself on the back for taking an extremely important step in your good health.

Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death for both men and women. And it’s preventable. Don’t let fear of the preparation keep you from for this life-saving screening.

 | Regional GI

J. David Horwhat, MD, is a gastroenterologist with Regional GI. A graduate of Temple University School of Medicine, Dr. Horwhat served 21 years on active duty as a physician in the Army, including two tours in Iraq and service as the Gastroenterology Consultant to the Surgeon General of the Army. Dr. Horwhat specializes in advanced therapeutic endoscopy.

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