Preparing for Your First Colonoscopy
Colonoscopies tend to be surrounded by plenty of jokes. The truth is, we all find the idea a little unnerving. Not to worry, though; we can take the mystery and uncertainty out of this common procedure. In fact, it’s a routine medical test that both men and women should get as they get older. The Surgery Group of Los Angeles can provide you with top-quality preventative care in the form of a colonoscopy.
Who Needs to Have a Colonoscopy and Why?
As with all medical tests, you may be wondering why it’s necessary. Your doctor might request this test if you have concerning symptoms, such as chronic diarrhea, bloody or black stools, weight loss that has no explanation, or other gastrointestinal symptoms that need a diagnosis. A colonoscopy test is also ordered as a routine method to look for colon cancer.
Currently, it’s recommended that men and women with an average colon cancer risk begin having screenings at the age of 50, 1 although people who have Lynch Syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and other bowel diseases 2 have screening recommendations that vary from that of the average population.
Generally, the recommendation is a screening colonoscopy every 10 years for those with an average risk of colon cancer. Your doctor may recommend that you have a repeat screening in three to five years if polyps are found.
How Do You Prepare?
If you know anyone who has had a colonoscopy, then you’ve heard something about the preparations beforehand. Your colonoscopy doctor will give you a set of instructions that detail what they want you to do.
Approximately a week before the procedure, the physician may ask you to stop taking certain medications. These medications include blood thinning medications like aspirin and Coumadin, but your doctor will go over your medication list and give you more specific instructions based on your individual needs.
A few days before the colonoscopy, you may be asked to stop eating nuts and high fiber foods.
The day before, you’ll need to avoid solid foods. Instead, you’ll consume teas, coffee, Jell-O, broth, and other liquids, transitioning to clear liquids (things you can see through) until a specified hour in which you’ve been asked to begin your fast. You’ll need to avoid anything with red dye during this time as well.
The day of, you will be asked to have only clear liquids. Two hours beforehand, you'l need to stop eating and drinking. 3
In addition to modifying your diet, you’ll also need to take a medicine that will help clean out your bowel. This is known as “bowel prep.” You’ll need to follow the instructions provided with this medication. This medication will cause you to have many bowel movements, so you’ll need to plan accordingly.
Wear loose, comfortable clothing, drink plenty of fluids, and be prepared to spend the next few hours in the bathroom. You may even want to keep a book or some other entertainment nearby to make this time easier.
Tips for a Smooth Prep
Read the instructions fully and make sure you understand them.
Stop taking medications as directed.
Stay hydrated during your bowel prep.
Plan to be at home the day before the procedure to complete the prep without stress.
Add your favorite drink mix to your bowel prep medication to make it taste better.
Avoid red dye.
Sources1. https://www.webmd.com/colorectal-cancer/why-get-a-colonoscopy#12. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/acs-recommendations.html3. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/preparing-for-a-colonoscopy