When it comes to exams, students are often tempted to cheat. Especially if preparing for the exam is particularly difficult or painful. Patients are no different. And the colonoscopy is perhaps one of the exams patients are most likely to try to cheat. But just like school, if you cheat, the only person you are hurting is yourself.
I have not yet had a colonoscopy, but I am going to have one later this year. I’m only 41, which may be a little early to be scheduling this exam, except for the fact that I have a risky family history. You see, my dad had a large pre-cancerous polyp removed during his first colonoscopy several years ago, and had the doctor not found it when he did, my dad would have likely developed cancer and possibly died an early and preventable death. So I am being proactive.
How do you cheat a colonoscopy?
Part of being proactive is making sure to do things right when I do have my colonoscopy done. And that means fully preparing my bowel for the procedure. Some patients try to cheat and don’t take the necessary steps to cleanse and empty the bowel of as much fecal matter as possible before their exam. This is a very bad idea.
What are the consequences?
According to a study published in “Gastrointestinal Endoscopy” in 2012, polyps, or adenomas, were found in one third of patients who underwent a repeat colonoscopy after being inadequately prepped for their first exam. More than half of these patients had polyps that were deemed “high risk” and may have quickly developed into cancer. Of those high risk patients, one fourth had no polyps seen on their original colonoscopy and would have gone on thinking they had a clean bill of health, possibly not returning for five or even ten years if they lived that long.
How should you prepare for your exam?
Having recently been through a bowel prep for my hysterectomy, I can tell you that the process is not pleasant. In fact, the cramping and diarrhea associated with a bowel prep is bad, but to me drinking the solution to start the whole thing is even worse.
There are several ways to begin a bowel prep. Your doctor may have you drink a salty laxative solution, either in a large quantity, up to a gallon, or a smaller quantity accompanied by lots of water. Lots and lots of water. The water is necessary to keep you hydrated and to flush out fecal material.
Your doctor may allow you to take pills instead of drinking the liquid, but you’ll also be drinking a lot of water with those. My dad’s doctor, the one who I will likely be seeing when I get ready to have my colonoscopy done, prefers not to use the pills because he says the liquid prep works better. You should talk to your own doctor to see what they prefer.
Colon cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer, but you have to have regular exams and you have to do them right. A missed polyp can grow quickly and become cancerous if not removed. But if you do your bowel prep correctly, whichever laxative your doctor prescribes, you’ll have a much better chance of having every polyp you may have found and removed, and that might just mean the difference between life and death.
More by Tavia:
What to Expect at Your Pre-Op Appointment
Colorectal Cancer Screening Can Save Your Life
Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Can Save Lives