Digestive health

5 ways to prepare yourself for a colonoscopy

The thought of a colonoscopy can be daunting, but it's a very important screening procedure.
The thought of a colonoscopy can be daunting, but it's a very important screening procedure.

You’ve had a nagging stomach ache for months now, and you finally plucked up the courage to see your doctor. He has referred you for a colonoscopy – and you couldn’t be more petrified.

“What if the outcome is serious?” you think. “And what about that dreaded bowel cleanse?” Yes, the bowel cleanse is unpleasant, and the thought of having a camera go up there certainly isn't reassuring. A colonoscopy is, however, an important screening tool to rule out serious conditions such as colon cancer and other illnesses involving the digestive system

A recent study posted on Health24 concluded that patients who have had cancer spotted during a colonoscopy tended to be at an earlier stage of the disease and therefore have a much better chance of survival.

"The findings provide yet another compelling reason for asymptomatic, average-risk individuals over the age of 50 to get screened by colonoscopy," said Dr David Carr-Locke, chief of the division of digestive diseases at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

In layman's terms, a colonoscopy is completely routine and will spot things like the early stages of cancer of the bowel. If you're still not convinced, here’s what you can do to make the thought less daunting and prepare yourself mentally and physically:

1. Remind yourself that this is an important medical check-up

If “colon cancer” is lingering in your mind, rest assured that a colonoscopy is the best way of early detection, and that 95% of all cases of colon cancer are completely treatable if detected early enough. And even if your prognosis is not serious, you will have a full understanding of what’s going on in your intestines so that you can adapt your lifestyle if necessary.


2. Follow your doctor’s orders

It all starts with the dreaded bowel cleanse, but according to patients who have been through the procedure, once that's done, the worst part is over – you won’t even feel the rest. The bowel cleanse is vital, as the bowel needs to be clean so that polyps and other abnormalities can be identified. Just be sure that you follow the directions given by your doctor beforehand, and don’t hesitate to ask questions if you are unsure about anything.

digestive health, how to prepare yourself for a co

3. Prep your bathroom

Sorry to be graphic, but if you know what’s coming, you might as well make things more pleasant. Use the softest loo paper possible or even wipes with aloe vera and vitamin E. You can even use a nappy rash ointment to minimise discomfort down there. 

woman on toilet

4. Keep it clear

And we are not just referring to the corridor leading to the bathroom! You want to consume clear liquids such as water, broth and herbal tea the day before the procedure and during the hours before the procedure – not only will this keep you adequately hydrated when the inevitable bowel cleanse happens, but your stomach will also feel less sensitive.

woman drinking water with lemon

5. Plan accordingly 

You need to know that you will be occupied the night before – be prepared to stay at home (and close to the bathroom). While the procedure is painless, you will be sedated and will not be able to return to work immediately – the medication will first need to wear off. Make sure your schedule is in order and that you have someone to take you home after the procedure.

Woman at desk

Image credit: iStock

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