Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Why Get a Colonoscopy?

Photo by Hey Paul Studios.
(Note: I am not authorized to give medical advice or prescribe treatment. This post is only for raising awareness of the issue and sharing my personal experience.  If you have a concern about your health, see your general physician or another licensed medical professional.)

Crap.  I have to get a colonoscopy. 

Actually, I'm 2.5 years behind schedule.  The guidelines are to have one at age 50, one at 60, and one at 70.  After age 75, the procedure can be a bit harsh on the aging intestinal system and is generally not recommended. 

A study published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine argues that those without prior screening by age 75 receive little benefit from the test.   

But I am far younger than 75.  I' guessing that the most likely outcome will be a discovery of diverticulosis.


Here are some key statistics about colorectal cancer: 

People over their entire lifetime have a 5% chance (or 1:20) risk of acquiring colorectal cancer

It's the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths for both genders when combined. 

Age isn't the only risk factor. People with certain intestinal problems and people with a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, child) with colorectal cancer are at greater risk.  

It's Not the Screening, It's the Prep

I have heard that the screening itself isn't that bad. It's the preparation that is difficult. Prior to screening, patients have to empty their bowels as much as possible. This is a little traumatizing for the body. 

At noon the day before the screening, I have to take 2 tablet laxatives (bisacodyl). Then over a two-hour time period, I have to drink 64 oz of Gatorade mixed with 238 grams of polyethylene glycol

That day prior to my screening, I can only consume clear fluids with no red or purple dyes: i.e., broth, tea, gelatin, sports drinks, apple juice. Then at 8 pm the day prior, I have to take 2 more tablet laxatives. I am scheduled for a 9 am screening the next day, and someone has to drive me, stay there with me, and drive me home. 

Soft-Food Diet

I am hoping that this process will be less dramatic if I eat easily digested foods in the days prior. I found various suggested meal plans for those preparing for a colonoscopy. 

Colon Cancer Alliance Sample 6 Day Meal Plan

Aukland, New Zeland Dept. of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 3 Day Prep

Harvard Medical Teaching Hospital Low-Residue Diet

Basically, they are soft, bland, low-fiber foods such as white bread, overcooked vegetables and soft meats. 

I don't have to do this for a few more days, so I have some time to prepare myself physically and mentally. For example, I bought myself some fancy clear juices.  I will try to take notes about the experience in case I decide to write a bit more about the screening. 

But mainly, this retired English teacher just hoping that All's Well that Ends Well and that my results show that this was all Much A-Poo about Nothing. 


Why Get a Colonoscopy? 

My 1st Colonoscopy Screening


  1. This will help loosen you up (no pun intended): http://www.miamiherald.com/2009/02/11/427603/dave-barry-a-journey-into-my-colon.html
    AFter all my fretting, it was really not that bad. Good luck.

    1. Oh, I neglected to reply in a timely fashion. Thanks, Karen, for the link.

  2. what you've heard is right. The procedure is painless. The prep is the uncomfortable part. All things considered, not as bad as a whole lot of other preps/procedures. Heartened to hear that 75 may be the end of the line for havingto have a colonoscopy. something to look forward to

    1. Sorry for the late reply. Thanks for the info that ppl 75 plus are usually spared this procedure. (I'm guessing the risks of the procedure are greater than the benefits.)

  3. The hardest part is the prep. You'll be surprised at how easy the rest of it is.

    1. Somehow, I neglected to reply to comments on this post. GAH. Thanks, Carol, for sharing your experience.