Let’s be frank: A colonoscopy involves a long tube inserted up your rectum. Worse still, preparing for one means being tied to the toilet with self-induced diarrhea. Millions of people delay or even skip their screening colonoscopy for these reasons. Don’t be one of them! A screening colonoscopy remains the gold standard for preventing colon cancer—the second-most deadly cancer in America.
Tip #1: Consider the Alternative
Early detection is critical for this type of cancer. If you’re over 50 and have shied away from your colonoscopy because you “feel fine,” you’re doing yourself a disservice. “One of the worst things about colon cancer is that there are no symptoms in the early stages,” says Dr. Vandersteen. “Once people start developing symptoms, it’s usually reached the later, dangerous stages.” A screening colonoscopy is used to detect abnormalities (polyps) in the colon and remove them before they can become cancerous.
Don’t press your luck; don’t wait for symptoms. A couple unpleasant days certainly beats a colon cancer diagnosis.
A few days before your colonoscopy…
Tip #2: Get a Head Start
The less you have in your gut before flushing your colon, the easier the process will be. People report that eating smaller, lighter meals a few days before their colonoscopy helped ease the cleansing process.
The day before your colonoscopy (“Prep day”)…
Tip #3: Hack the Taste
The day before your colonoscopy, you’ll be placed on a clear-liquid diet. You’ll also be instructed to drink your “prep”: a high-volume liquid mixture that induces colon cleansing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t taste great. Dr. Vandersteen has a few tips to make prep more palatable:
“I recommend chilling your prep mixture. Patients frequently report that it tastes better chilled. Another acceptable thing you can do is to add in powdered flavoring, as long as it doesn’t contain red or blue coloring. Finally, you can chase it! Wash down gulps of prep with Sprite®, Gatorade®, or another clear beverage to help remove the taste from your mouth.”
Tip #4: Netflix® and Wipes
Don’t make any plans on prep day; instead, queue up that show you’ve been meaning to watch or stream a few movies. The goal of colonoscopy prep is to clean out six feet of your colon, so you’ll want to stay near the bathroom. Keep yourself comfortable in the bathroom with a stack of personal hygiene wipes. Some people also have A&D ointment on-hand for added comfort.
The day of your colonoscopy…
Tip #5: Rest Easy, the Hard Part’s Over
After your colon cleanse, the rest is a cakewalk. Dr. Vandersteen says, “Relax the day of your colonoscopy; the prep is the worst part for most people.” He also adds, “You’re sedated before the screening and most people don’t remember the procedure or experience pain afterward.” Make sure to arrange a ride home because you will not be permitted to drive.
Tip #6: Pass Gas and Prosper
You’re almost done! Dr. Vandersteen’s last requirement before his patients can leave: “You’ve got to fart before you can go. Fart shamelessly and don’t feel bashful. The colon needs to be inflated during a colonoscopy so I can see inside. Therefore, passing gas afterward helps to relieve any pressure or bloating you may feel.”
If you or a loved one is over age 50, contact Dr. Vandersteen’s office to discuss a screening colonoscopy. A preventative exam, screening colonoscopies are covered by nearly all insurance plans.