There are a few rites of passage when turning 50: “over the hill” jokes, receiving your AARP invitation in the mail and scheduling a colonoscopy.
Men and women at low to average risk for colorectal cancer should receive their first screening at age 50. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening every one, five or 10 years, depending on test type and patient risk. Patients who are screened using colonoscopy should be screened every 10 years.
While the process can be intimidating, it’s easier than you might think. The best part is, this is a test than can save your life.
Here are a few things you need to know before scheduling your colonoscopy:
Make sure you pick up your colonoscopy prep kit.
When you schedule your colonoscopy, you will receive detailed preparation instructions from your doctor. It’s important to follow these directions exactly, as improper preparation can result in a cancelled exam. A clean colon will help your doctor accurately identify polyps or cancer if they are present.
Your doctor will send a prescription for a colonoscopy prep kit to your preferred pharmacy. If you are a Sharp Rees-Stealy patient, the pharmacy can secure the prescription for you. Be sure to fill the prescription 10 to 14 days before your scheduled exam.
Know what to eat and drink before your colonoscopy.
In order to ensure that your colon and rectum are completely empty, you will need to limit what you eat and drink in the week before your procedure. Your doctor will provide complete instructions, but you will need to observe a liquid diet and avoid certain foods.
- Seven days before your procedure: Stop eating seeds, nuts, corn and other high-fiber foods.
- Two days before your procedure: Stop eating all green vegetables and fresh fruits. You can eat meat, fish, eggs, dairy, bread and pasta.
- The day before your procedure: Begin your clear liquid diet, and do not eat solid food until after your procedure. A clear liquid diet includes strained fruit juices; clear soda; tea and coffee without cream; and clear beef, chicken or vegetable broth. Avoid purple or red liquids, which can look like blood in the colon.
You’ll need to stop taking some medications beforehand.
If you take regular medications, talk to your doctor at least one week before your scheduled procedure about which ones to stop taking and which ones to continue taking, including:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers: Stop taking aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, seven days before your procedure.
- Heart and seizure medications: Do NOT stop taking medications for high blood pressure, heart rhythm disturbances or seizures without approval from your doctor.
- Blood-thinners: Your doctor will decide the best course of action if you take aspirin or prescription anticoagulants to thin your blood. Make a plan at least one week before your colonoscopy.
- Insulin: If you use insulin to manage diabetes, you will need to adjust your dosage in advance of your colonoscopy. Refer to the detailed preparation instructions you will receive from your doctor or pharmacy.
The most important thing to remember is to follow the instructions provided by your care team. Find detailed information in English and Spanish on the Sharp Rees-Stealy Patient Resources page of sharp.com. Sharp Rees-Stealy also offers a comprehensive video that covers the same material.