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Colon Cancer Special Report

Time for Your Colonoscopy? Here are 9 Tips To Make It Easier

Colonoscopy is the "gold standard" for finding and removing precancerous polyps and colon cancers. But many people delay colonoscopy because of the uncomfortable pre-exam preparation. In this Health Alert Johns Hopkins provides practical advice to help you make the best of this necessary test.

There may be a few jokes about colonoscopy, but what you need to do to ensure the doctor a clear view of your colon is not funny: You will have to drink large amounts of an odd-tasting liquid that prompts your digestive system to clean itself out in a hurry.

Here are 9 practical tips to help you get through the colonoscopy experience more comfortably:

  • Colonoscopy Tip 1: Get a head start. Consider lightening up on your food intake two days before the test, avoiding hard-to-digest items such as meat, eggs, nuts, and leafy greens. Instead, eat lots of fiber in the form of vegetables and fruits, or start the liquid diet early, so there will be less to purge.

  • Colonoscopy Tip 2: Stock up. Get what you will need ahead of time, including clear liquids such as chicken or vegetable broth, apple juice, and bottled water with electrolytes. Buy extra-soft toilet paper, paper towels, or disposable baby wipes (be careful not to buy cleansing wipes containing scent or alcohol).

  • Colonoscopy Tip 3: Be gentle to yourself. Plan to take two days off work: the day before the test and the day of the test itself.

  • Colonoscopy Tip 4: Stay hydrated. A recent study shows that some laxative products made with sodium phosphate may contribute to dehydration and thus cause kidney damage. All laxatives cause some water loss, so drink plenty of fluids throughout the prep and after the test. Avoid both alcoholic and carbonated drinks before the procedure, as they increase dehydration, and consider getting some electrolyte rehydrating drinks available over the counter.

  • Colonoscopy Tip 5: Reduce the opportunity for accidents. Stay home near a bathroom during the process.

  • Colonoscopy Tip 6: Prepare the bathroom. Line the wastebasket with a plastic bag. Instead of toilet paper, use wet washcloths or disposable wipes, such as unscented baby wipes (check that the product is flushable). Applied generously, petroleum jelly and hemorrhoid products can ease anal soreness that might develop. Soaking in a warm tub may help as well.

  • Colonoscopy Tip 7: Most people dread the actual scoping procedure, and feelings of anxiety or concern are normal. The mild sedative given for a colonoscopy relieves those problems, and you may not even remember the process. If you are feeling especially anxious, talk to your doctor beforehand about providing a mild tranquilizer or muscle relaxant for the procedure. And keep in mind that, compared with the preparation, the colonoscopy is usually over very quickly.

  • Colonoscopy Tip 8: Aftercare. You may feel some mild cramping or bloating and, rarely, nausea, up to a day afterward, caused by some air left in the colon. Eat lightly for a few days. If your discomfort is extreme or persists, call your doctor.

  • Colonoscopy Tip 9: Be relieved. When it’s over, it’s over. If the scoping shows no polyps or cancer, you are in the clear for a decade. If there are polyps, or even cancer, you will know, and you can be treated quickly.

  • For more Colon Cancer articles, please visit the Colon Cancer Topic Page

    Posted in Colon Cancer on December 18, 2007

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