Robert R. Cawley, D.O.
Dover, NH 03802
Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death among men and women in the United States, but many colon cancers can be prevented with regular testing. If every person aged 50 and older had regular screening tests, including colonoscopies, at least 60 percent of colon cancer deaths could be prevented, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
When it comes to detecting colon cancer, no screening is more effective than a colonoscopy. But, the thought of having one makes many people nervous.
Wentworth-Douglass Hospital’s Endoscopy Department performed almost 3,200 colonoscopies last year, and our nurses are ready to share some insider tips to help make your experience as easy as possible.
A lot of people fear preparing for a colonoscopy more than the procedure itself. Having a clean colon allows doctors to more easily see and remove polyps, so it’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions. Here are some additional tips that can help.
Gather some wash clothes or baby wipes to use in place of toilet paper. You may also want to have hemorrhoid products, diaper cream or petroleum jelly on hand since they can be soothing to sensitive skin.
Several days before you your schedule procedure, start eating light, low-fiber meals. Opt for white bread over whole grains and eggs or fish over tough meats. Passing on steaks and high fiber vegetables and fruits will make things easier in the long run.
Start hydrating several days before the procedure by drinking lots of approved liquids. Sports drinks are a good choice as long as you avoid ones that are colored red, blue or purple. Many patients find that drinking chicken or other clear broths is particularly helpful.
Coffee is OK the day before your colonoscopy, but you’ll have to drink it black. Hold the lattes for later.
Your doctor will prescribe a liquid laxative that works to really clean out your colon. For many people, this is the worst part of the process. To make it a bit more palatable, serve the drink very cold. Drinking it through a straw helps it go down faster. You can also try mixing it with some lemon or ginger to improve the taste, or try adding some seltzer if you like the bubbles.
Congratulations. You’ve made it through the hardest part, but keep following your doctor’s instructions. There are important things to remember on the day of your colonoscopy to make sure everything goes smoothly.
You cannot eat anything the day before and the day of your colonoscopy and nothing clear to drink for three hours before your procedure. Many people forget that this includes chewing gum, sucking on candies or doing anything else that produces saliva.
Think about what type of sedation you prefer and find out which options are covered by your insurance before you arrive at the hospital. Whatever option you choose, you will be comfortable and you probably won’t remember a thing.
For many people the fear of the unknown can be difficult. If it’s your first time or if you are nervous, let your nurse know. He or she can talk you through the process step-by-step so you know what’s ahead.
Also, let your nurse know if you are afraid of needles. You’ll need an IV for the procedure, but he or she can get it done soon after you arrive, so you can relax knowing that part is over.
The entire procedure – from the time you arrive to the time you leave – takes about 2.5-3 hours. Rest assured, you are in good hands and doing all you can to prevent colon cancer.
Wentworth-Douglass Hospital's Endoscopy Unit provides diagnostic, as well as therapeutic, care for patients. For more information, call (603) 740-2157.