Ask anyone who’s had a colonoscopy and they’re likely to say it was no big deal - the procedure that is. The prep, leading up to the test may be the most uncomfortable part.
“You drink medication, that’s usually liquid medication and it produces temporary diarrhea,” says gastroenterologist Irma Cruz. She is part of the medical staff at Lee Memorial Health System.
The ill affects are not only expected, they are a crucial part of the procedure. If the bowel isn't thoroughly cleaned out, doctors might miss a pre-cancerous polyp.
“Preparation is a critically important part of this because if we can’t see, we can’t diagnose polyps and remove them,” says Dr. Cruz.
You might call it a necessary evil. One study found that as many as a third of polyps are missed when people don’t adequately prepare for their colonoscopy. The whole point is to be able to spot even the smallest lesions; from 3mm to 1cm in size.
You’re required to fast the day before, consuming only liquids including: water, apple juice, ginger ale, Jello and clear broth. The cleanse is either a series of pills, 32 of them taken with a liquid, or the standard liquid laxative.
“There are several types of preparation, but they all involve the same idea. Which is to remove the stool from the colon,” Dr. Cruz says.
The colonoscopy is the only screener that can prevent cancer, by actually giving doctors the opportunity to detect and remove lesions.
Even patients who chose to undergo a ‘virtual’ colonoscopy which uses a CT scan to examine the colon still have to undergo the same prep.