As the vast majority of colon cancer is diagnosed in men and women age over 45, the American Cancer Society recommends scheduling a colonoscopy with regular screenings beginning at age 45 for people who are at average risk of colorectal cancer, although Medicare and most insurance plans only cover costs for those age 50 and older.
With early detection and diagnosis and maintaining a healthy bladder, colorectal cancer is both preventable and treatable. By properly preparing for your colonoscopy, your doctor will be able to spot small colon cancers while they are treatable and before they have spread to other parts of the body. A colonoscopy can also detect and remove polyps, small growths that can develop into colon cancer.
A colonoscopy is an exam to detect abnormalities, precancerous polyps, and cancer in the large intestine—the colon—and rectum. During the exam, a long, flexible tube called a colonoscope that contains a tiny video camera is inserted into the rectum that allows the doctor to view the inside of the entire colon. If necessary, polyps or other types of abnormal tissue can be removed through the scope by special instruments passed through the scope during a colonoscopy. In order for the colonoscopy to be effective, proper preparation, including a full bowel cleansing, is essential.
Bowel cleansing refers to the complete emptying of the contents of the colon, which is a key requirement for a successful colonoscopy. The cleaner the colon the more visualization your doctor has to properly inspect the entire colon for pre-cancerous polyps before they have a chance to turn into cancer. Make sure you follow every step of your doctor’s instructions.
Incomplete bowel prep can leave residual fecal (stool) which will significantly inhabit a doctors ability to visualize polyps and lesions that could be missed and your colonoscopy could take longer, increasing the risk of complications, or necessitate a repeat procedure at extra cost due to another round of bowel prep and added procedure cost. After completing your prep you should have clear stool consistency with no sediment debris.
If you have any difficulties or questions with taking your prep call your doctor’s office.
The afternoon or evening before your colonoscopy, you’ll drink a liquid or pill(s) prep that will trigger bowel-clearing diarrhea. Your doctor will give you specific instructions depending on the type of bowel prep you’re using, how to take the prep, the time of your procedure, as well as your prior experience with bowel preps.
Most doctors recommend split dosing for the best screening results. This is when a portion of the prep is taking the night before the procedure and the remaining the morning of procedure. Follow the instructions provided by your doctor.
Diet: A few days before your procedure, eat a low-fiber diet: no whole grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, or raw fruits or vegetables.
The day before Procedure:
Avoid: solid foods the day before and the day of your colonoscopy; Avoid milk, anything that is colored red or purple (this could look like blood in the colon); Avoid alcoholic beverages. (or avoid alcohol)
What you can consume: clear liquids like juice (without pulp), Gatorade, broth or bouillon, soft drinks, tea and coffee (no milk/creamer). Above are examples of what your doctors may recommend but it is essential to follow your doctor’s instructions. Your doctor will tell you when to stop drinking clear liquids prior to your procedure.
Plan: Make sure you are able to schedule a full day off from work for the exam and recovery. You’ll also need someone to drive you to your procedure, stay during the exam, and drive you home after completing the exam.
Medications: Talk to your doctor before the procedure about any necessary adjustments you’ll need to make to medications you may be on, including nonprescription medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
After carefully reading the instructions provided by your doctor, you’ll want to stay close to the bathroom once you begin your bowel prep. Use these tips to make sure your experience is as comfortable as possible: