A regular colonoscopy can save your life.
Most patients who develop colon cancer have no apparent risk factors. If you have a colon, you are at risk for colon cancer. That’s why colonoscopies are vital for your health. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 50,000 people will die from colorectal cancer each year. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among U.S. men and the third leading cause among U.S. women.
The good news? The death rate continues to drop, thanks to early screenings and better treatments being developed. The key is to have regular exams as you age.
Who is a candidate?
- Are you over the age of 50?
- Do you have unexplained bowel habits?
- Do you have a family history of colon cancer?
- Do you suffer from rectal bleeding?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, schedule a colonoscopy today!
What is a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a procedure in which a physician uses a colonoscope with a camera to look inside your rectum and colon. Colonoscopy can show irritated and swollen tissue, ulcers, polyps, and cancer.
How is a colonoscopy performed?
A small catheter for intravenous (IV) medicines will deliver sedating medication that will make you relaxed and sleepy. For some patients, deep sedation, in which you are completely asleep, may be used. You will be resting in a comfortable position on your left side, and our physician will examine the rectum gently with a lubricated, gloved finger.
The colonoscope will then be placed into your rectum and advanced to permit examination of the colon. You may feel some cramping or gas from air introduced during the procedure. There may also be some discomfort as the instrument negotiates turns or bends in the colon. You may be placed into a different position during the examination (such as on your back) to facilitate passage of the instrument through the entire large bowel. The nurse assisting the doctor during this procedure may also compress the abdomen with his or her hand to reduce looping of the colonoscope and facilitate passage of the instrument through the colon.
What are the risks of a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a safe procedure. There are no significant risks or complications associated with this procedure. Colonoscopy and polypectomy have very few health risks. One possible complication is perforation, or tear through the wall of the bowel that may allow leakage of intestinal fluids. This complication usually requires surgery for treatment. Bleeding may occur from the site of biopsy or polyp removal. It is often minor and stops on its own or can be controlled by cauterization (application of an electrical current) through the colonoscope. Very rarely, transfusions or surgery are required. Irritation of a vein at the site where medications were administered could occur. Drug reactions may also occur despite careful review of the patient’s medical history. Finally, like any test, pathology may be missed in a small number of cases leading to an error in diagnosis.
Three steps for a good prep
You’ll start preparing for your colonoscopy a couple of days before you drink the bowel-cleansing agent.
- Cut out fiber: Two days before your exam, you’ll switch to a low-fiber diet.
- Switch to clear liquids: One day before the exam, you’ll drink only clear fluids. “You need a lot of clear liquids to stay optimally hydrated and help flush the prep through the intestinal tract,” says Dr. Burke. “We have learned that having fewer hours between finishing the prep and starting the colonoscopy is the optimal cleansing strategy.”
- Start the prep: Many physicians today prescribe a split-dose regimen, where you take half the prep the night before and the other half the morning of the procedure. If you have an afternoon exam, you can drink the prep the morning of the procedure. If you have a morning exam (before noon), you can drink half the prep the night before and the other half about four hours before the colonoscopy. “Every day, it’s an early morning for the first few patients we examine, but they have the best clean-out,” says Dr. Burke.
In a recent study, she and other researchers compared the split-dose prep to conventional bowel-cleansing methods. They found that a split-dose bowel preparation decreased the intensity and duration of bowel movements, caused less patient inconvenience, and improved bowel preparation.
Before your exam
Fill your prescription for your prep at your local pharmacy.
Seven days before your colonoscopy
If you take aspirin or NSAIDs such as Advil, Motrin, Celebrex, or Ibuprofen, you may continue to take them as usual, unless otherwise instructed by your physician. You should discuss this with your physician in advance of the procedure. Ask your doctor for specific instructions if you take a blood thinner like Plavix, Pradaxa, Clopidogrel, Coumadin, Warfarin, Effient, Prasugrel or Lovenox.
Three days before your colonoscopy
Stop eating all nuts, seeds, and popcorn.
One day before your colonoscopy
Begin a clear liquid diet. Drink at least eight glasses of water during the day to avoid dehydration.
What to avoid altogether when preparing for a colonoscopy:
- No red or purple items of any kind
- No alcohol
- No milk or non-dairy creamers
- No noodles or vegetables in soup
- No juice with pulp
- No liquid you cannot see through
At 6 pm, drink one 8 oz. glass of NuLytely solution and continue drinking one 8 oz. glass every 15 minutes until the bottle is empty. Your doctor may have recommended a split-dose prep. If this is the case, only drink 3 liters of prep solution. Do not drink any other liquids while you are drinking the NuLytely solution.
What clear liquids can I drink when preparing for a colonoscopy?
- Gatorade, Pedialyte or Powerade
- Clear broth or bouillon
- Coffee or tea (no milk or non-dairy creamer)
- Carbonated and non-carbonated soft drinks
- Kool-Aid or other fruit-flavored drinks
- Strained fruit juices (no pulp)
- Jell-O, popsicles, hard candy
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