Colonoscopies are a powerful tool in screening for colorectal cancer, but are only effective in reducing one’s risk if people properly prepare for the test.
Colorectal cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer death in women and second leading cause of cancer death in men in the United States affecting one in 20 individuals, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Still, the rate for colon cancer deaths has been dropping for both men and women for the past two decades thanks to a screening that allows precancerous and cancerous growths to be found when the disease is easier to cure.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that adults who are at average risk for colon cancer start having colonoscopies when they turn 50 years old. In some cases, colon cancer can be prevented when precancerous growths, also known as polyps, in the large intestines and colon are found and removed during a colonoscopy.
A colonoscopy is a screening method whereby a lighted camera on a flexible stem is used to view the inside of a person’s large intestine. Abnormalities can only be viewed if the area is cleaned. Creating a clean colon is the goal of the preparation prescribed for patients up to 24 hours prior to their test. The prep requires patients to follow one of several laxative regimes that help empty and clean their intestines prior to the colonoscopy. The prep may seem uncomfortable or time-consuming, but it is a vital part of the screening’s success.
Polyps shaped like a mushroom can be easy to detect during a colonoscopy whereas polyps that are flat may be harder to find if the colon isn’t clean. Unfortunately, studies have shown that up to 25 percent of colonoscopies are done without adequate bowel preparation. Patients can ensure they have adequately prepared for their test by keeping the following steps in mind.
• Prepare for the prep — Do not assume your prep is going to be the same as another individual. Read over instructions for your prep a week prior to the procedure.
• Understand the restrictions — You will be required to stay on a clear liquid diet, and avoid high-fiber foods and iron supplements up to a couple days before the procedure. High-fiber foods and iron supplements can cause discoloration or bulking of the stool.
• Know the rules for medication — You will likely be allowed to continue maintenance medications during the preparation as long as it is approved by your physician. Most maintenance medications – like those for hypertension or cholesterol – can still be consumed.
• Have the right expectation — Prep for a colonoscopy involves emptying the intestines and clearing the colon, so understand upfront that you will need to spend a lot of time near a bathroom. The prep may require you to take time off work the day before depending on how late your procedure is scheduled the next day.
To learn more, contact Premier Gastroenterology Specialists at (937) 440-9292 or premiergastroenterologyspecialists.com.
Fayez Abboud, MD, practices with Premier Gastroenterology Specialists in Troy, a Premier Physician Network practice.