A colonoscopy is considered the gold standard for colorectal cancer screening, yet far too many people still put it off or avoid it altogether, partly because of stories they’ve heard about the preparation they have to go through the day or night before their scheduled colonoscopy. Preparing for a colonoscopy usually involves taking a powerful bowel-clearing substance and coping with the resulting diarrhea. This emptying the contents of the colon is a key requirement for a successful colonoscopy. If the bowel prep isn’t up to par, polyps and lesions can be missed, the colonoscopy may take longer, or the whole process may need to be done over, including the bowel prep.
But here’s why it’s absolutely worth doing: A colonoscopy can spot small colon cancers while they are treatable and before they spread to other parts of the body. It can also help detect and remove polyps, small growths that can develop into colon cancer.
If you’re put off by the prep process, here are some tips that may help make it easier on you:
- At least three days before your colonoscopy test, start eating a low-fiber diet. Steer clear of whole grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, raw vegetables and fruits and spicy foods.
- The day before the colonoscopy, don’t eat solid foods. Unless otherwise directed by your gastroenterologist, consume only clear liquids like broth or bouillon, clear soft drinks, black coffee, tea or sports drinks.
- Allow adequate time for your cleanse. You should only perform the bowel prep at home in a comfortable environment – you won’t want to be at work (or in a car trying to drive home). Allow for at least half a day.
- Follow the directions your doctor gives you for your bowel prep – including when you should start it. If the prep mixer can be mixed with other liquids, do not mix it with a liquid that is either red or purple, as these can look like blood in the colon. Avoid red and purple food and drinks for a full day before your procedure.
- Once you’ve started the bowel prep, stay close to the restroom. Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. It also might be a good idea to purchase some soothing ointment and hygienic wipes, in case of soreness. Arm yourself with music, your laptop or tablet, magazines or books.
- Once it’s time for your procedure, try to relax. Remember that the doctors and nurses performing the procedure are experienced at performing colonoscopies and that it very well could end up saving your life.
What else would you like to know about prepping for a colonoscopy? Leave a question or comment below!
Dr. Hassan Dakik is a board-certified Gastroenterology specialist who welcomes new patients at Kelsey-Seybold’s Spring Medical and Diagnostic Center. His clinical interests include inflammatory bowel disease, gastroesophageal reflux, gastrointestinal bleeding, celiac disease, and various disorders of the liver and biliary tract.