Excuse Busters #2: Fear of Colonoscopy Prep

Rachel Morrell

patient with questions about colonoscopy prep

Colonoscopy prep is an essential component of a quality colonoscopy, but bowel preparation is a common fear among people of screening age. In fact, it’s one of the most common excuses for not scheduling a colonoscopy.

Fear often stems from unanswered questions. The best way to approach your colonoscopy with confidence is to know the facts about how to prepare for the procedure. Here are some of the most common questions about colonoscopy prep.

Why Do I Need to do a Colonoscopy Prep?

A colonoscopy is the only colon cancer screening that requires a bowel prep, but there is an important reason. It’s the only screening that provides a visual inspection of the colon. In order for your gastroenterologist to see the entire lining of the colon during the exam for precancerous polyps, you must clear your intestines of all debris. The only way to fully empty the bowel is to follow the prep solution guidelines. If you don’t do a thorough colon cleanse, your doctor can’t complete the colonoscopy, and you will have to repeat the prep.

Will I be Able to Drink that Much Liquid?

Everyone has heard the horror stories about colonoscopy prep: the bloating, nausea and running to the bathroom. These stories get embellished for dramatic effect and may contain more fiction than fact. While it’s true that the original GoLytely prep included 236 grams of MiraLAX and salts dissolved in a gallon of liquid, there are newer colonoscopy prep solutions that require less volume and cause fewer complaints. Talk with your doctor about lower-volume preps like:

  • Moviprep
  • Plenvu
  • Halflytely

Many doctors now advocate the split-dose regimen which divides the solution into two equal doses. This new method advises you to drink half of the prep solution the evening before the colonoscopy and the remainder of the liquid on the morning of the procedure.

Is the Prep as Bad-Tasting as People Say it is?

There are certainly varying opinions on how bad the colonoscopy prep solution tastes. Many colon cleansing regimens can taste salty because they contain polyethylene glycol (PEG), an electrolyte-balancing solution. However, you can enhance the flavor of any prep solution by dissolving it in Crystal Lite or Gatorade. Other tricks to make the prep more palatable are chilling the solution and drinking it through a straw.

As the prep solution begins to do its work, you will need to make frequent trips to the bathroom. With a little bit of pre-planning, you can increase your comfort. Here are a few suggestions:

Purchase hemorrhoid cream and cooling wipes and keep them in your restroom
Set aside comfortable loungewear for your prep day
Have plenty of books, crossword puzzles or games to occupy your time
Binge watch a new series on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime

Call a Gastroenterologist

A day of inconvenience is certainly worth the years or decades you could gain by avoiding colon cancer. Even though colonoscopy prep is unpleasant, it’s a necessary step in preventing colon cancer and a worthy investment of your time.

Don’t let excuses keep you from scheduling this life-saving screening. Most adults who are at average risk for colon cancer should get their first colonoscopy at age 45, but certain risk factors may require earlier screening.

Need help finding a qualified GI doctor? Use our locator tool: Find a gastroenterologist near me.

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How to Make Colonoscopy Prep Drink Process Tolerable
Answering the “Why” of Colonoscopy Prep
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