A colonoscopy is an important diagnostic procedure used to catch colon cancer. When detected early, colon cancer is much easier to treat successfully. Along with other key health exams, your doctor will likely recommend that you start getting a colonoscopy around the age of 45. However, if you are high-risk for complications or have a family history of this condition, then you will likely benefit from a colonoscopy at an earlier age.
A traditional colonoscopy is a relatively simple procedure and can be completed in 30 to 60 minutes. In fact, you will spend more time preparing for the colonoscopy than you will on the table getting the procedure done. There are several ways that you have to prepare for the colonoscopy.
Start Changing Up Your Diet
You will have to start changing your diet a few days before your procedure. Your diet should be low in fiber. A low-fiber diet will reduce the amount of undigested food that passes through your digestive system. Raw vegetables, fruits, seeds, grapes and nuts are examples of some of the things that you will need to avoid eating a few days before your colonoscopy.
If you are using any supplements that contain fiber, you will also need to stop taking them a few days before your procedure. Lean meat, fish, chicken, white pasta, rice and well-cooked vegetables without the skins are examples of some of the foods you can eat before your colonoscopy.
Go on a Liquid Diet
You will need to go on a completely liquid diet the day before your procedure. Black coffee, tea, clear juice, clear broth, popsicles and jello are examples of some of the things you can consume. The purpose of the liquid diet is to help cleanse your colon before the procedure.
Clear Your Digestive Tract
You will have to consume a strong laxative drink before your procedure the afternoon or evening before your colonoscopy. The exact time that you have to drink this beverage will depend on the time of your procedure. Ensure that you follow all of the instructions on the bottle and given to you by your doctor. If you have any issues with your drink, you should reach out to your healthcare provider.
Keep in mind that you may have some abdominal discomfort after you take the laxative. You may also experience some bloating and cramping. This is not a cause for concern. In fact, it is a sign that the laxative drink is doing exactly what it is supposed to do.
Discontinue the Use of Certain Medications
It is essential to let your healthcare provider know about the medications that you are taking. It is fine to take most medications before a colonoscopy. However, there are certain medications that can increase the risk of bleeding and complications.
Diabetes medication. If you are taking insulin or medication for diabetes, then you may have to adjust your dosage. Your doctor will give you specific instructions for these medications.
Blood pressure medication. You will likely be able to keep taking your blood pressure medications. You will have to take your blood pressure medications at least two hours before your procedure. Take your medications as normal the day of the procedure unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
Blood thinners. You will also need to stop taking blood thinners. The amount of time you will need to stop taking a blood thinner will depend on the type you are using and your doctor’s directions. You can continue taking low-dose aspirin unless your doctor tells you that you need to stop.
Anything containing iron. If you take anything with iron in it, you should discontinue it seven days before your procedure.
Make Plans to Stay Home
You will have to stay home the day before your procedure because you will likely have to make several trips to the bathroom. It is also a good idea for you to wear loose-fitting clothing that you can easily remove. Additionally, you may want to put things in the bathroom that will make you more comfortable, including wipes and medicated cream for irritation.
Arrange for Someone to Drive You Home After Your Colonoscopy
Anesthesia is required for a traditional colonoscopy because a scope is inserted into the colon to look for polyps. The anesthesia used for a colonoscopy will leave you drowsy for several hours after the procedure. That is why you won’t be able to drive yourself home or return to normal activities immediately. Make sure that you have someone with you that day who can take you home after the procedure.
Consider a Virtual Colonoscopy
If a traditional colonoscopy doesn’t sound like an option for you, but you still want to be checked for colon cancer, a virtual colonoscopy is an excellent alternative. A virtual colonoscopy is a non-invasive examination that uses a low-dose CT scan to get detailed images of a patient’s colon. It can effectively detect abnormal growths and polyps inside the colon that could potentially turn into colon cancer.
A virtual colonoscopy should be considered to a traditional colonoscopy for patients who:
Use blood thinners and can’t stop taking the medication.
Are at risk of bowel perforation.
Feel uncomfortable with an invasive procedure.
Are unable to tolerate anesthesia.
Although much of the colon cleansing preparation is the same for a virtual colonoscopy as a traditional procedure, you won’t have to stop taking important medications or undergo anesthesia. Because a virtual colonoscopy is non-invasive, it only takes about 15-20 minutes, is painless and patients can return to normal activities almost immediately.
If you’re interested in learning more about virtual colonoscopies, contact the Preventative Diagnostic Center team in Las Vegas. We can explain the procedure and why it might be the best option for you.
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Dr. John J. Pierce is the Medical Director at Preventative Diagnostic Center. He is Board-certified in Emergency Medicine as well as Board-certified by the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. He received his medical training from Western University of Health Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific, in Pomona California. He also has a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. In addition to his regular practice, Dr. Pierce serves as a Tactical Physician with the Las Vegas SWAT team.