I pinched my nose as I quickly tried to gulp down the colonoscopy prep liquid. It is the very worst part of the whole procedure, but it’s necessary. Colonoscopies are necessary, too.
According to Memorial Hermann, The purpose of colonoscopies is trifold—diagnostic, preventive, and interventional. For most people, it is purely preventive and diagnostic. If the doctor sees anything suspicious during the procedure, it becomes interventional. An example of an intervention would be the doctor removing any polyps and sending them off to the lab for diagnostic testing.
For most people, colonoscopies only become a reality once they reach the age of 45. Those with no family history or gastrointestinal problems typically need to repeat the procedure every 10 years.
For others, like me, colonoscopies are a more regular occurrence. I have Ulcerative Colitis, a form of Irritable Bowel Disease, and I require colonoscopies approximately every three years. Others who may require more frequent colonoscopies are those with Crohn’s Disease or a family history of colon cancer.
The colonoscopy itself is the easy part. In most cases, the patient is put under general anesthesia. It is a rather quick procedure, and you wake up from it feeling like you just had a really great nap.
During the procedure, the doctor inserts a flexible tube into your rectum. It has a light, video camera, and has the ability to push air through your colon and intestines for easier viewing. Because of this, thorough colonoscopy prep is necessary.
Two days before the procedure, you should switch to a diet that is easily digestible. One day before, your diet will be clear liquids only (Jello, water, broth, popsicles, juice without pulp, etc.).
*This is the part where I tell you that you should try to get the first appointment of the day! Otherwise, you will be thirsty and hungry and unable to eat or drink until after the procedure.
The time that you begin drinking your preparation cleanse depends on what time your procedure will take place, but it is typically around 5 or 6 p.m. I have an extremely sensitive stomach, so this part is always a struggle for me. In the past, the taste along with the volume (2 liters) was the biggest problem. Now, there is a new product, Clenpiq, that can be prescribed that is only two 5.4 oz bottles. After each one, you must drink four glasses of water. This was easier for me to get down. My insurance refused to cover it, but that’s a conversation for another day.
Clear your calendar. You will be on the toilet all night!
Seriously. It’s not pretty, but it’s necessary. Get some wet wipes to help ease the discomfort of constant wiping.
By the morning of the procedure, your bowel movements should be completely clear. If they are not, the doctor will not be able to perform the colonoscopy, and you’ll have to repeat the entire process. No bueno.
I have had four colonoscopies and have always been commended on my “excellent prep,” so it is completely doable, albeit unpleasant.
Note: You will need a responsible adult to accompany you and drive you home after the procedure. Make sure this is someone you trust. They will likely learn about your colon health and will need to drive “loopy you” home. You will be tired and start to develop an appetite, so bonus points if they are willing to pick up whatever bland food you desire.
So, what if you are not 45 or older and have no diagnosed gastrointestinal diseases or family history? Well, hopefully you can disregard all of this for the time being.
If you have any of the following warning signs, you should consult a gastroenterologist immediately. They will likely want to perform a colonoscopy to get the full picture of what may be going on. If necessary, they can do an endoscopy (throat, esophagus, stomach) at the same time. They use different tubes though, so don’t worry!
What are the warning signs:
- Blood or mucus in stools
- Unexplained cramping and abdominal pain
- Diarrhea or constipation that lasts more than a few days
- Unexplained weight loss
- Weakness and fatigue (more than usual)
Listen, I know nobody loves to discuss their bowel movements. But if there are any red flags, please see a doctor. The last thing that anyone wants is colon cancer. While discussing your poop may not be the easiest conversation, it is better than dying of embarrassment.
If your child complains of any of these symptoms, please get them to a doctor. This is personal for me. My symptoms started when I was a teenager. I had unchecked inflammation for almost a decade before receiving a diagnosis. Please don’t let that be you or your child.
Assuming things went well, you will have a clear report and pictures of your colon and intestines. If they removed any polyps, they will send them off to the lab, and you will await a report as to whether or not they were cancerous. If there is any diagnosis as a result of your colonoscopy, you will be treated for that. The best part of it is knowing. Whether it is knowing that you are all clear or detecting and treating colon cancer, knowledge is power.