This year, about 153,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and more than 50,000 will die as a result of the disease, according to data from the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. The good news is, colorectal cancers tend to grow slowly, and having regular colonoscopy screenings can help your doctor catch and treat cancer in its earliest stages.
With offices in Moline, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa, Digestive Disease Specialists is a leading provider of colonoscopy screenings, using the most advanced technology for very accurate and precise imaging. If you have a colonoscopy in your future, here’s what our team wants you to know about the steps you’ll need to take at home to get ready for your appointment.
The keys to successful preparation
For most people, the worries they have about having a colonoscopy aren’t so much about the procedure itself. Instead, the concerns are usually about the preparation before the screening. That’s because, as most people know, preparing for a colonoscopy means clearing your bowel — and that means taking a really strong laxative.
The reason you need a clean bowel is simple: When your bowel is free of stool, it’s a lot easier to spot tiny polyps or unusual tissues that could indicate a very early stage of cancer. In fact, if your bowel isn’t properly prepped, there’s a good chance your colonoscopy will need to be rescheduled, which will mean another round of prep.
While bowel prep isn’t exactly something anyone would call fun, it’s not nearly as bad as a lot of people make it out to be. The first key is to follow every step of your prep instructions, and the second key is to get started early, which is usually a few days before the laxative part of your prep.
The first steps to take
Start the process a few days before your colonoscopy appointment by switching to a low-fiber diet. That means you should skip fiber-rich foods, such as whole grains, nuts and seeds, beans, legumes, and raw or dried fruit and vegetables. This will make the laxative part easier and more comfortable.
Next, prepare for the laxative part ahead of time by designating a bathroom for your sole use if possible. During your prep, you’ll need to empty your bowels a lot, and knowing you have free use of a toilet can make you a lot more comfortable and relaxed. Stock the bathroom with books or magazines, and have a place to rest your computer so you can stay occupied.
Wear loose clothing to make it easier to use the bathroom as quickly as possible. If you have kids or other loved ones who need your care, arrange to have someone else take over those duties during your prep.
If your prep requires you to drink a lot of liquid laxatives, you can improve the taste by stocking up on drink mix packets — just stay away from red, blue, or purple. Keep some hard candy on hand to suck on after each drink, and chill the product ahead of time.
The preparation process
Prep begins the day before your colonoscopy. You’ll need to stick with clear liquids all day, such as:
- Clear broth
- Gelatin (without fruit chunks added)
- Coffee or tea (no milk or cream)
- Soft drinks
- Italian water ice
- Sports drinks
Be sure to drink plenty of fluids, and again, avoid products with blue, red, or purple dyes.
You’ll start drinking the prep liquid in the afternoon or evening, depending on what time your colonoscopy is scheduled the next day. You’ll drink a specific amount at timed intervals. Be sure to stick with the schedule we provide with your instructions.
The liquid will start to take effect fairly quickly, and you can expect to clear your bowels more frequently as the prep liquid is consumed. You might want to have some wet wipes on hand in case toilet paper becomes too irritating.
Once your prep liquid is consumed, you should continue drinking clear fluids until a few hours before your colonoscopy. Again, your individual instructions will have all of this spelled out for you, so be sure to read them as soon as you receive them.
Learn more about colorectal cancer screenings
Colonoscopy is considered the gold standard when it comes to screening for colorectal cancers, but depending on your risk factors, there may be other options available to you. To learn more about screening and what else you can do to decrease your risk for colorectal cancer, request an appointment online or over the phone with Digestive Disease Specialists today.