The Infamous Colonoscopy: Tips for Prepping
: At some point in our lives, we all will have one, either because we have reached the screening age of 50 or because we are having issues with our GI tract.
Having undergone my colonoscopy and being under the age of 50, with having a strong family history of colon cancer, I too was dreading the evil prep. Going through the colonoscopy was not a barrier for me; it was knowing that I would have to drink the vile-tasting liquid and be running to the bathroom for most parts of the day and night. And who knew—I might just be sleeping there.
Working in an ambulatory surgical and endoscopy center has made me aware that colon cancer is the second deadliest cancer in the US that affects both men and woman of all ages. It's also is the most preventable major cancer, and if caught early, it can be highly treatable. An estimated 60% of deaths can be prevented with early screening.
If nurses could write "tips on prepping for your colonoscopy," it would help patients prep for this procedure by lessening their fear. Having a procedure that involves looking into your colon and your rectum sounds unpleasant and even scary, but it's the prepping that's the worst!
By far the most important thing is that we, as nurses, instruct out patients to hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate. This is the most common complaint I hear from patients when they are coming in—they are thirsty, weak, hungry, tired, and dehydrated.
My first tip is to drink lots of clear fluids, water, Gatorade, clear juices, and/or coconut water, which is the best fluid for maintaining hydration and fluid balance. Stock up on these fluids. You are going to need them. Drink the prep cold and slow through a straw, which will help prevent becoming nauseated.
Limit eating meat a few days before your prep to ensure the prep works efficiently and quickly. Increase eating veggies and high fiber. Rest as much as you can days prior to your procedure, because you will be having a sleepless night.
Get zinc oxide cream for your bottom. Due to the prep being an acid base and with the amount of times that you will be running to the bathroom, your bottom can get excoriated. The zinc oxide can protect it. Also, baby wipes with aloe vera and extra super soft toilet paper will help. Get hemorrhoid cream if you suffer from hemorrhoids. During the prepping phase, these will come out and scream at you.
If you get light headed, lay down for a bit. Don't shower or take a bath until it passes.
Wear comfy clothes and bring extra garments of clothing. If you suffer from incontinence, use depends for underwear just in case you have an accident.
The day of your procedure bring a book, an electronic device, a family member, or a friend to help pass the time and keep you relaxed, just in case there is a delay in your procedure or your doctor is running behind.
Most important, ask questions about your procedure, sedation, test results, and managing discomfort—this will lessen anxiety and fear.
In the future of colonoscopies, researchers are working new ways to make the process easier and more palatable. This could increase colonoscopy screening rates and potentially save lives. Being a patient for a day and having these few tips helped me survive my colonoscopy.