It may be unpleasant, but preparing properly for your colonoscopy is so important, says Upstate Gastroenterology nurse administrator Michelle Henry. Here’s what she tells patients:
1. Remember, the prep is only for one day. You can do just about anything for one day.
2. Technically you won’t be fasting the whole time. You can still have clear liquids. Broths count. So do Jell-O and Popsicles – as long as they’re not red or purple. Coffee is also OK if you don’t add cream. No alcohol, though.
3. The goal is to empty your large intestine, so your doctor will prescribe GoLytely or a similar gastrointestinal lavage designed to stimulate your bowels. When you begin drinking this, you’ll want to stay near a bathroom. Henry says many patients like to add a lemonade mix to the solution to remove the bitter taste.
4. Read your doctor’s instructions about when to start the prep, when to stop clear liquids, and what to do about any medications or vitamins you take. Following his or her instructions precisely will improve the quality of your test.
5. If you mess up, confess. Call your doctor’s office to find out what to do. You don’t want your doctor to discover your mistake when he or she begins the colonoscopy; that usually means an entire second day of bowel prep and a return visit.
6. In the week before your colonoscopy, plan on eating a diet low in fiber. Avoid any seeds, nuts or popcorn, raw fruits or vegetables with skin, and any meat with gristle or fatty foods.
7. One uncomfortable day of prep is worth it to be screened against the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men. Finding colon cancer early almost always means it can be treated successfully.
Colorectal cancer screening
The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for colorectal cancer in adults beginning at age 50 and continuing to age 75. The American Cancer Society says people at increased risk of colorectal cancer may need to start screening sooner.
The colonoscopy is a test that allows a doctor to examine the entire length of the colon and rectum using a thin, flexible, lighted tube with a camera on the end. If he or she sees a polyp, it can be removed during the colonoscopy.
To schedule an appointment with University Gastroenterology, call 315-464-1600.
This article appears in the winter 2018 issue of Upstate Health magazine.