Colonoscopy is still the most accurate means we have of detecting colon cancer in all its various stages, including the most treatable early stages, as well as detecting and removing abnormalities before they become cancerous. A colonoscopy is also efficient: If you’re at average risk for colon cancer, you only need one every 10 years.
The colorectal experts at Colon and Rectal Surgeons of Greater Hartford applaud you for taking your health into your hands by booking a potentially life-saving colonoscopy. Here’s what you need to know to prepare for this vital screening test.
Do this now
The first thing you should do after booking a colonoscopy is make arrangements for a friend or family member to accompany you and then drive you home after your procedure. We give you a sedative to keep you sleepy and pain-free during your colonoscopy. Afterward, you’ll be groggy and won’t be able to drive.
Also arrange to take the day off from work, unless you can book one of our Saturday colonoscopy appointments. The colonoscopy itself only takes about an hour. However, you need to allow for prep time, and also for recovery. You need to rest before going home. And, of course, since you’re groggy from medication, you won’t be able to return to work that day.
If you’re a night worker, you may wish to arrange to take off the night before your procedure, too. The night before your colonoscopy, you have to go through an intensive and somewhat embarrassing bowel prep procedure. You’ll be more comfortable if you can do that in the privacy of your own home, without interruptions or responsibilities.
Read over the pre-colonoscopy instructions we’ve given you. Feel free to call us with any questions or concerns.
3-4 days before your appointment
A few days before you undergo your colonoscopy, lay in the supplies you’ll need for your bowel prep. You must switch to bland foods and drink lots of liquids, plus you may need some items that make evacuating your bowels easier and more comfortable. Shop for:
- Low-fiber, bland foods
- Broth or flavored waters
- Pre-moistened wipes
- Diaper cream
- Laxative (we may prescribe one for you)
- Adult diapers
You should begin to change your diet so that it’s easier to prep your bowels the day before your procedure. Eat bland, low-fiber foods, such as:
- White rice
- Well-cooked, skinless vegetables
- Lean meat, poultry, or fish
- Skinless, seedless fruit
Avoid any type of high-fiber food that could irritate your gut. Also avoid vegetables and foods that tend to give you gas. Cut out:
- Cruciferous veggies, such as broccoli and cabbage
- Raw vegetables
- Fruit with skin or seeds
- Whole grains
- Tough meat
You should also stop taking supplements. Let us know if you’re on any medications. Some drugs and herbs act as blood thinners, so don’t use aspirin, NSAIDs, garlic, or ginger. We give you a full list of foods, herbs, supplements, and medications to avoid.
The day before
During the 24 hours before your colonoscopy, you must fast from all solid foods. You should consume plenty of healthy, clear liquids, though, including:
- Bone broth
- Apple juice
- White grape juice
You may also drink black coffee and tea. Black coffee may help control any hunger cravings you have. Stay away from liquids that are highly colored, such as:
- Grape juice
- Cranberry juice
- Pomegranate juice
- Red, purple, or blue sports drinks
You may also have light-colored gelatin. If you aren’t sure whether a food or drink is allowed, give our office a call. Or just avoid questionable items in favor of those you know are ok.
The night before
The evening and night before your colonoscopy, you must totally flush and clean your bowels. This can be a lengthy process that entails many trips to the bathroom, so you may want to arrange for reading materials and other ways to distract yourself during the purge.
You drink about a gallon of a strong liquid laxative we give you. We advise dividing it into two doses: One early in the evening, the second about six hours before your appointment. You may need to get up in the middle of the night for your second dose.
Be forewarned: the laxative isn’t exactly delicious or easy to get down. You can make things easier for yourself by:
- Mixing it with a light-colored powdered or sport drink
- Chilling it in the fridge
- Following a sip of laxative by a sip of clear-colored juice
- Sipping through a straw placed on the back of your tongue
As the laxative works, you have explosive diarrhea — frequently — so stay close to a bathroom. You may also have stomach cramps and feel bloated or nauseated. In some cases, you may vomit. If you vomit, you can take a short break before drinking the rest of your dose.
Because of the constant, forceful diarrhea, you may want to apply diaper cream before you drink your laxative. You can also use the pre-moistened wipes to clean yourself, to avoid the abrasion of toilet paper. When you’ve successfully purged your bowels, your diarrhea is an almost clear liquid that looks more like urine than stool.
The day of
You may still have clear, liquid diarrhea even as you head in to your appointment. You may wish to wear an adult diaper, to avoid soiling your clothes. You should also bring an extra change of clothing, just in case you have an accident.
Luckily, the worst is behind you. Once you arrive for your colonoscopy and we prep you for your procedure, there’s nothing more to do. We give you a sedative, and you won’t feel a thing until your colonoscopy is over.
Assuming your colon is clean and cancer-free, you won’t need another colonoscopy for a decade. If we find or remove precancerous, or identify cancerous, lesions, you’ll need a follow-up procedure sooner than that. However, depending on your case, it could be a less invasive test.
To make an appointment for your colonoscopy, call us at 860-242-8591. Because we believe so wholeheartedly in this procedure’s ability to identify cancer early and save lives, we offer Saturday colonoscopy appointments for your convenience. You can also book online at the office nearest you. We have locations in Bloomfield, South Windsor, and Plainville, Connecticut.