“It’s not the screening — it’s the preparation.”
That is the often-heard lament of those who have undergone a colonoscopy: that the screening itself isn’t what’s unpleasant — it’s the preparation for the procedure the day before. Many who are scheduled to undergo a colonoscopy fret the prep about as much as the exam itself. But recent improvements have made the preparation process a whole lot easier to swallow, making the prep go as smoothly as possible.
The objective of colonoscopy preparation is to clear your colon, or bowels, so that the doctor can perform an unobstructed examination of the interior walls of the colon.
Ahead of your colonoscopy exam, your physician will provide a set of dietary guidelines for you to follow in the days leading up to your colonoscopy. These guidelines typically include a series of instructions regarding what you will and will not be able to eat and drink in the days before your exam. These guidelines are to help prepare your colon for the procedure, so it’s vital that you follow them exactly as provided. Failure to do so may result in having to reschedule the exam.
Your prep will likely start a day or two before your exam. Your doctor will place you on a clear liquid diet and will prescribe stool softeners, such as Dulcolax tablets or MiraLAX laxative powder, to help cleanse your bowels before the exam. These forms of laxatives offer a lower-volume, better-tasting solution to prep and an experience that is more palatable than other methods.
Other improvements that are helping make light work out of prep work:
- There is less to drink. – Most preparations require half of the previously required volume, usually totaling no more than 64 ounces. Your doctor may prescribe over-the-counter laxatives that may be taken with a flavored beverage that agrees with a clear liquid diet.
- Change in flavoring. – Minor flavoring has been added to some solutions to make them more palatable.
- Tablets are now an option. – Tablet forms of stool softeners and laxatives are now available and may be taken with only a minimal amount of liquid.
- Split prep time. – A split-dose regimen allows you to take portions of the prep frequently throughout the day. This method has proven to be convenient by helping decrease the intensity of bowel movements and making it easier to go.
Remember: preparation is a necessary requirement colonoscopy and the key to a successful exam.
You can learn more about colorectal cancer by visiting Tanner’s Health Library online at healthlibrary.tanner.org.