Fear Not the Colonoscopy

(Courtesy of CDC)

By Thurston Hatcher

So if you haven’t heard already, March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. And if you have, you’ve probably also heard a few reminders that it’s time to get that colonoscopy you’ve been dreading.

As an employee of a health care institution, I consider it my professional obligation to inform you that I’ve had one, and it ain’t that bad. Want to hear more? Perhaps not, but I’ll tell you anyway.

Colonoscopies generally are recommended for people age 50 and older, since they account for more than 90 percent of colorectal cancer cases. The procedure, which involves running a thin, tubelike instrument through the colon, helps doctors spot precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer.

As it happens, I’m not quite 50, but I had a few symptoms that might fall into the “cause for concern” category. My primary care doctor and gastroenterologist weren’t particularly alarmed, but they wanted to play it safe, and they figured I was close enough to my golden years to experience this rite of passage.

Roughly 24 hours leading up to my colonoscopy, I subsisted on chicken broth, ginger ale and lemon gelatin — the closest substance to solid food that I was allowed to eat.

Then, in the early evening, came the MoviPrep, a magical elixir that quite effectively ensures that your colon is squeaky clean. After downing voluminous amounts of the commonly prescribed solution – which tastes, as another blogger aptly noted, like a mixture of Sprite and sea water – I watched TV, waited and remained very close to a bathroom. The next morning, I repeated the process.

The procedure itself proved less eventful. I won’t pretend I wasn’t nervous – less about the colonoscopy than what it might find – but the nurses and doctor, and eventually a mild sedative, put me at ease. Although some people remember nothing about the colonoscopy, I was awake and somewhat alert during at least part of mine – and even watched the monitor along with the doctor and nurse. It was completely painless, and as it turned out, the doctor found nothing other than a mild case of diverticulosis.

I’m not particularly eager to have another one anytime soon, but when the time comes in nine years or so, I won’t fear or avoid it. You shouldn’t either.

Related information:

Thurston Hatcher is a web editor in the Department of Marketing and Communications at Rush University Medical Center.

6 thoughts on “Fear Not the Colonoscopy

  1. I don’t fear them, my problem is the medicine that has to be taken beforehand. I can only drink 1/2 of the gallon, after which, I can no longer take it (I won’t go into what occurs but I’m sure you have an idea).

    Not to mention, I do not get the cleansing required because I could not complete the medication. Is there something that can be done to remedy this?

    I have tried the different flavorings, adding ice, all of that to no avail.

    • Hi Laurette: I read something today that suggested drinking the liquid through a straw, thereby bypassing the taste buds, which seems like a great idea. Another recommendation is to refrigerate it for several hours before you have to drink it. I think that helped me.

      • I have tried all of that and I cannot complete the process. It’s not the taste buds, I can only stomach half of the one-gallon container – EVER. Beyond that, even by one ounce, I begin to vomit. But thanks for responding…

  2. hey Thurston,
    Do you feel that for people who are suffering existing inflammation in the colon prior to their colonoscopy, its’ quite possilble to increase the inflammation or have more pain/bleeding afterwards for a short period of time due to the foreign “scope” being up in there? I myself felt that my UC symptoms got a bit worse shortly after the scope 3 plus years ago, and it seems that quite a few others feel the same. But not sure if “normal” or healthy people also deal with increased or new inflammation after this type of procedure? any thoughts?

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