Monday, March 14, 2005
some info about colonoscopy preparations
all colonoscopy prep methods start by fasting the day before the procedure. this is no big deal. you're allowed to drink clear liquids including gatorade, clear apple juice, sodas and water. fasting is mostly a frame of mind. it's not that difficult at all to do, especially if you've fed yourself well the day before.
the Fleet phospho method of preparing for a colonoscopy involves having you drink two small bottles of laxatives before your colonoscopy procedure the next day. the first laxative bottle is taken about 6 pm to 7 pm the day before the procedure. the laxative will act within about 30 minutes or so. throughout the nite you may feel a need to move your bowels a few times, so your sleep may get interrupted a bit by a few trips to the bathroom. you're required and expected to drink clear liquids during this time so your body doesn't become dehydrated.
3 hours before your leave for your colonoscopy procedure, you drink the second Fleet phospho bottle. that will induce some more bowel movements. by the time you arrive at your colonoscopy, your bowels will be pretty much cleared of solid materials.
the other method, the Go-Lightly method, is much less fun. Go-Lightly is a laxative contained within a gallon of what tastes like sea-water. you're supposed to drink the entire gallon, having a glass of that material every 15 minutes.
yeah, right. i'm going to drink a GALLON of anything? most people don't make it past a quart of that stuff. my sense is that the Go-Lightly method was invented by lawyers who wanted to ensure that dehydration doesn't occur as the laxative takes effect. lawyers come up with some of the worst ideas in the world. (although many lawyers have done some good in this world, too.)
if you're not in a high risk category for getting colon cancer, colonoscopies are usually scheduled every 10 years. high risk categories include people whose relatives have died of colon cancer and people who have any inflammatory digestive condition, such as colitis, chrohn's disease or inflammatory bowel disease (ibd). more than 10 million americans have these conditions. the cause of these conditions is not known.
the actual colonoscopy procedure is usually very easy on the patient. it is administered with sedation. you will barely feel a thing. in the rare instance that your doctor has not given you enough sedation, you have every right as a patient to simply ask him/her: "i need more sedation."
in the 15 times i've had a colonoscopy, i've never needed more sedation. i have heard others sometimes do, but it's pretty rare.
the procedure lasts about 30 to 45 minutes. your gastroenterologist will snake a fiber optic cable into your anus and through your colon, looking for pre-cancerous growths. there's a light on the cable, making everything more visible. if a pre-cancerous growth is found, your doctor can cut it out right there using the same colonoscope. in the 15 times i've had a colonoscopy, i've had growths ("polyps") removed about 3 or 4 times. there is no pain involved in removing polyps. the only evidence that is a polyp was removed might be a bit of blood in your stools after the procedure.
before colonoscopies were invented in the 1960's, there were far less comfortable ways of screening people for colon cancer. those screening methods were so uncomfortable, people didn't get screened and died. colonoscopies are the best thing to happen to patients in a long time. sure the preparation method is not all that fun. living free of colon cancer is a lot fun, though.