Colonoscopy - No Big Deal: Helpful Tips and Recommendations For an Easy Colonoscopy

This week, I underwent my first colonoscopy.  The following tips and recommendations should help make the prep and procedure a “piece of cake”.

Although medical recommendations are for men and women to have their first colonoscopy at 50 years of age, gastroenterologists (MDs who perform the procedure) will tell you that they see a lot of colon cancer in people aged 30’s and 40’s.  A firefighter friend relayed that his city/union requires all firefighters have a colonoscopy at age 40.  Because early detection can be the difference between removing a benign polyp and deadly colorectal cancer, and the prep/exam is so easy, people should get a colonoscopy in their early 40’s.

You can find general information about the procedure on other websites.  Here I will focus on a few very specific tips that helped me:

1)    Schedule the exam around 12Noon – Because my appointment was at 1230pm, my sleep the night before went undisturbed.  My first laxative drink was at 5pm the evening before and I was finished going to the bathroom by 1030pm that night.  I did not wake up during the night to use the bathroom.  I drank the second laxative at 7am (5-6 hours prior to the procedure).  An 8am appointment, for example, would have required me to wake at 230am to drink and then likely wake several times thereafter to use the bathroom.  A late exam appointment is KEY.

2)    Use MoviPrep as the laxative drink – While it doesn’t taste great, I’ve sampled sports drinks with worse flavor.  And, I’ve heard horror stories about the pill preps.  MoviPrep has a lemon-lime flavor and is mixed with water inside a provided container.

3)    Chill the drink to make it more palatable – stick the mix in the reefer a few hours prior to drink time.

4)    More tricks to help get the drink down – if necessary, the following suggestions will help get the drink down (but really the taste is not THAT bad):  Hold your breath while drinking; dry the rim of the container so your lips don’t taste it; count how many gulps it takes to finish 8 ounces.  

5)    Chase the laxative drink with chicken broth – something about the salty chicken broth that eliminated the laxative drink’s flavor from the mouth.  Only a few slurps will do the trick.

6)    Pooping doesn’t hurt – no cramps, etc, just outbound liquid instead of solid.

7)    Hungry but not unbearable – After a full day of liquid restriction, you’ll be hungry, but drinking Gatorade and slurping chicken broth throughout the day minimized it.  Personally, I’ve been hungrier after running a marathon or competing in an Ironman triathlon.

8)     "Twilight" anasthetic - Although I thought I was awake during the entire procedure, I really wasn't.  I didn't feel a thing.  Getting a DRE (digital rectal exam) in the doctor's office is more uncomfortable than a colonoscopy.  No anesthesia makes for an easy recovery.  The procedure lasted 20 minutes and the nurses monitor for 30 minutes in recovery--I could have walked out of there after about 10 minutes if necessary.

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This is GREAT advice. I had

This is GREAT advice. I had an 8am appointment and used a product called Prepopik. Was very easy though, since I took it at 3pm and again at 9pm, was up a couple of times throughout the night. The procedure itself was ridiculously easy. I was surprised at the 2-hour nap I needed when I got home to sleep off the Demerol they used an anesthetic.

The "clear liquid diet" the day before provides enough options to make it through the day. Being "hungry" was not the end of the world...and, based on what much of the population of the world experiences, couldn't really be classified as true hunger. Maybe the preparation even gives you a heightened awareness of what you put in your mouth on a day-to-day basis which might just improve your diet afterwards.

All in all, the anticipation and trepidation I felt - and which I think is completely normal - was unnecessary and I'm happy I did it. It's nice to know that all is well and, based on the statistics, was my best shot at early detection of colon cancer. Early detection is your best bet for survivability.

So, if you've got family history of polyps, colon cancer, stomach cancer,etc. and/or are 50-years old or more, stop putting it off. Like the Nike ads say, Just Do It.

If you eat a healthy diet

If you eat a healthy diet with vegetables and fruits you should switch to a low-residue diet AT LEAST several days before the prep. A week is better. If you don't, the Moviprep will likely be marginal or even inadequate for the exam. The Moviprep instructions don't mention this fact. No one warned me about cutting out roughage foods, and although I followed Moviprep instructions perfectly, there was still so much vegetable particles in colon that the exam was canceled after 18" and I have to do the whole thing over again. Too bad Moviprep isn't honest and caring enough to provide full instructions. I complained to them on the phone afterwards, and their corporate attitude is "tough luck."

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