March 20, 2018
I recently turned 50 which meant it was time for my first colonoscopy. Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths and generally when caught early, has a good cancer prognosis. Yet, 30% of adults age 50 and older have not had a colonoscopy to screen for colon cancer! However, getting your first colonoscopy doesn’t have to be scary, and you can prep to make the procedure go as smoothly as possible.
Here’s what I learned from my first colonoscopy:
- Know the colon health of your relatives; if there is a family history of colon cancer, your first colonoscopy might be before the recommended age of 50. Find out more about genetic testing and counseling.
- Read and re-read the prep instructions to avoid having the procedure canceled or repeated.
- Gather supplies days in advance. The supplies that will help you prepare for your colonoscopy include plush toilet paper, wipes, and A&D ointment can prevent a “sore” rear. Also, choose a variety of clear liquids that you will drink. You’ll drink more than the fluids the prep is in.
- Make sure you arrange transportation because you can’t drive yourself home.
- Plan your meals. In the days before your procedure, avoid high residue foods like beans, meat, grains, nuts, popcorn, fruits and vegetables which take longer to digest/remove, and can prevent clear visualization of the colon. Avoid foods and liquids that are red, purple or orange.
- For your prep, you’ll need to clear your schedule and secure a toilet. Occupy your time and mind; binge-watch a TV series!
- None of us experience the prep the same way. Your bowels could start moving right away or take several hours. You’ll experience diarrhea and may have nausea, bloating, and feel cold. It’s important to complete the prep. Your stools should be light yellow and without particles. You’ll get tired, maybe up late and might get a headache from not eating.
- Dress comfortably on the day of your procedure, allowing for bloating. When you resume eating, avoid heavy meals and foods that increase gas. Walk frequently to rid the gas. Take a nap.
- Your bowels may not be normal for a few days.
The colonoscopy itself was quick and painless. The nicest compliment you can receive for your efforts is that your colon was clean as a whistle.
Not all colon cancers can be prevented but the colonoscopy can save lives; it can find and remove polyps before becoming cancer. On any given day, I would rather have a colonoscopy than to prepare for colon cancer treatments.
Author: Sherri Porterfield, RN, MSN is a Patient Navigator and Community Education Liaison at Arizona Oncology’s Green Valley office. She was awarded a communications degree from the University of New Hampshire, her nursing degree from Texas Woman’s University and masters in nursing education from Sacred Heart University. Sherri has 22 years of experience working with the geriatric population, teaching them how to maintain their quality of life and independence. Her passion to educate is a gift that she freely shares with patients and staff. She is active in the community and has volunteered her time and expertise serving as a guest lecturer in Green Valley and Tucson.