Is Colonoscopy Prep Keeping You Away?

colonoscopy calendar reminder

Guest Blogger: Benjamin Hyatt, MD, UMass Memorial Medical Center, Division of Gastroenterology

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, so it’s time to discuss an uncomfortable topic: colon health. Let’s start with the bad news: Colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer in the United States. But here’s some good news:  it’s most often preventable.

So how do you prevent it? A colonoscopy.

People are often afraid of colonoscopies; but not because of the procedure, because of the prep. Just the thought of drinking a gallon of solution the night before to “clear out the area” brings nightmares to many. Thankfully, advances allow for an easier prep that can lead to a healthier you.

The Week Before

Starting a week before your scheduled procedure, modifications to your diet will make for an easier, more comfortable prep. Just slight changes to your diet, such as decreasing high-fiber and other hard-to-digest foods helps. Skipping this step can make the night-before prep more difficult.

The Night Before

Gone is the gallon of salt water prep solution. Now patients have the option of drinking a few ounces of prep solution with glasses of water at night and again in the morning. With the prep split into two days, it’s more comfortable and more effective.

Why Prep?

The purpose of the preparation is to clean out the colon to provide more clarity while looking for any abnormalities. While you are asleep, the doctor will be searching for polyps – small growths within the colon that start off benign – but can sometimes turn cancerous. These polyps can be removed during a colonoscopy to prevent colon cancer.

Join the conversation. It’s Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, so that means it’s #timetotalkaboutit. Follow the hashtag on Facebook to learn how you can enter to win a special prize to help keep your colon happy! Have you talked about it yet?

  9 comments for “Is Colonoscopy Prep Keeping You Away?

  1. Susan Gustafson
    March 21, 2017 at 9:00 am

    I am one that will sadly avoid the colonoscopy because of the prep. Just the thought makes me gag and anxious. I have one coming up on 3/31 and I’d like to get the 5 oz drink taken twice with plenty of liquids. Can I get this from the pharmacist or do I need a prescription for it?

    • March 21, 2017 at 10:52 am

      I would call your primary care provider and check with them about the best choice for you.

      • Susan Gustafson
        March 21, 2017 at 10:53 am

        Thank you…I will do that..

    • Anonymous
      March 21, 2019 at 3:04 pm

      I used the suprep at the suggestion of my dr. The lab had me using OTC laxatives with Gatorade or crystal light. I think I should have went that route. The suprep was split between half the night before and half the next morning. I did ok with the first part. The morning one did not go so well. Got about halfway through and vomited it back up. The lab said as long as everything was clear I should be fine. Which I was. I guess my body knew I didn’t need that second dose. I have to back in 5 years. Hope they have something easier by then!

  2. Anonymous
    March 15, 2017 at 11:29 am

    I have found while drinking the prep for a colonoscopy the taste that lingers makes it intolerable. To take away that taste I drink several ounces of prep, rinse my mouth with warm water-swish and spit,then drink a sip of diet gingerale. This seems to remove the taste and settle the stomach. Do this each time you drink the 6-8 ounces of prep until it is completed. Remember to drink plenty of water before, in between and after prep. – ME

  3. Anonymous
    March 15, 2017 at 10:40 am

    i am one of the ones that don’t like the prep of drinking the fluids i go to the bathroom enough as it is. Is there a better way to prep yourself? and what do you think about the commercial on tv that you can send your sample thru the mail and have it tested. Is that as accurate?

    • March 20, 2017 at 9:09 am

      Below is Dr. Hyatt’s response.
      There are low volume preps available. The prep with the least amount of fluid available is a 5 ounce drink that you do twice along with a few glasses of other clear liquids. Either way, you will go to the bathroom until your bowels are completely purged.

      The stool test is a DNA test called Cologuard. This test is done by collecting your stool and sending it to a lab for analysis. The stool test is a very good test for detecting colon cancer, but less accurate at detecting polyps. Colon polyps are bumps of tissue that can be precancerous and these can develop into cancer over several years. The advantage of colonoscopy is that precancerous polyps can be found and removed during the exam. While the Cologuard stool test is good for anyone who absolutely refuses colonoscopy, it is best at detecting lesions after they have already become a cancer. By having a colonoscopy, patients can potentially prevent cancer by removing precancerous polyps before that happens. Also, anyone who has a positive Cologuard test needs to then have a colonoscopy to look for abnormalities.

  4. Corlina ethier
    March 12, 2017 at 4:46 pm

    Why do you have to be asleep??

    • March 15, 2017 at 8:45 am

      Great question, we asked Dr. Hyatt. Below is his response.
      “Most patients prefer to be asleep for a colonoscopy since it can be uncomfortable without sedation, however, it is not a requirement to be asleep. Some patients request no sedation at all and stay awake during the entire exam. This decision is based on the preference of the patient, but most patients prefer to have sedation.”

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