A colonoscopy is certainly not a walk in the park, but it might be one of the most important decisions you will ever make. Colon cancer is 90 percent treatable with an early diagnosis. Surprisingly, the patient plays just as important of a role as the physician in a successful colonoscopy. For a thorough colonoscopy, the patient must adhere to physician guidelines to assure that the colon has been completely flushed.
During a colonoscopy, the doctor inserts a lighted flexible plastic tube into the rectum, and a camera attached to the tube will assist the doctor to see polyps, lesions and abnormalities in the colon. These abnormalities could become cancer in the future, so maximum visibility is imperative. A recent study from The American Journal of Gastroenterology found up to eight percent of colon cancers go undiagnosed because the colon has not been adequately cleansed.
A successful colonoscopy begins with the patient’s thorough preparation. Colon cleansing is usually a combination of liquid laxatives and a liquid diet during the day before the procedure. These liquids will stimulate bowel-clearing diarrhea. No solid foods should be consumed on the day before a procedure, but these liquids are typically acceptable (ask your doctor for specifics):
- Soft drinks
- Coffee (no milk or creamer)
- Clear juices
- Jell-O (any color but red, blue or purple)
It is very important to avoid foods with insoluble fiber such as nuts, seeds, hulls or skins. This could impair the doctor’s view of the colon and possibly miss flat polyps that are difficult to view (Source: Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide).
Typically, you can also follow these tips on the day before your exam (contact your doctor for his/her recommendations):
- Eat plain cereal with milk for breakfast
- Eat a light lunch consisting of soups without vegetables
- Drink clear liquids only
- Do not eat solid foods
- Drink a large volume of the special cleansing solution and/or special oral laxatives recommended by your doctor
Your doctor may have a specific regimen for their patients to follow, and sometimes that list can be tedious. Now, there is an app called “Colonoscopy Prep Assistant” to help patients in the prep stage of a colonoscopy. Brett Shamosh, co-founder and CEO of WellApps created the technology to act as a tracking companion. The app will track the number of glasses of solution the patient has consumed and also give reminders of the next dosage .
So do yourself a favor; follow your doctor’s prescribed schedule to fully prepare for your colonoscopy. Whether it’s a printed schedule on your refrigerator or an app on your phone, you can help your doctor give you accurate results so you will not have to repeat this less-than-pleasant procedure.