By Maureen Coughlin, Salix Pharmaceuticals
While many of you reading this post may be seasoned professionals when it comes to colorectal cancer screenings, for some, a simple colonoscopy can still be intimidating and a burdensome task. Even for those who have undergone several colonoscopies, the procedure can be anxiety-inducing because of the possibility of hearing those dreaded words, “you have cancer.” However, as we know, the benefits of receiving routine screenings outweigh this fear, as colonoscopies can lead to early detection, and ultimately, save lives.
According to the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force’s new recommendations, people with average risk for colorectal cancer should begin having regular colonoscopies when they turn 45 and continue getting screened every 10 years. For those at greater risk for colorectal cancer, which can include a previous diagnosis or a family history of the disease, the importance of regular, and potentially earlier, screenings is even greater.
If you or a loved one are preparing for a colonoscopy, here are five tips to keep in mind that may help ease the process – especially for anyone undergoing their first screening.
1. Schedule a morning appointment
Along with colonoscopies comes fasting, or eating much less than you’re used to, which means you’ll likely be hungry the morning of your procedure. By scheduling an early colonoscopy time, your next meal will be there before you know it. Procedures are also more likely to start punctually earlier in the day, meaning there’s less of a chance of your appointment being delayed.
2. Ask about your prep options
Patients have many bowel prep options available to them, including different flavors, over-the-counter versus prescription and even low-volume solutions. Patients should talk to their doctor about what options are available to them and feel empowered to ask for a particular bowel prep by name, if they have a preference. Some of the best patient-provider relationships are those where they co-collaborate on care.
3. Prep your prep
While many patients find the bowel preparation to be the most burdensome part of a colonoscopy, many believe that refrigerating the bowel prep can make it easier to drink. Patients should make sure they are reading the instructions for their specific prep to make sure it can be refrigerated and for how long. Drinking the prep through a straw is another tip that can make the process easier for some patients.
4. Stay hydrated
The bowel prep process can lead to dehydration, which makes it important to stay hydrated and drink clear liquids before, during and after your prep. As always, patients should be sure they’re following the bowel prep instructions provided by their doctor, including when to stop drinking liquids prior to their colonoscopy.
5. Be vocal about receiving a colonoscopy
The hard part is over! You’ve conquered the prep process and underwent your colonoscopy, now it’s time to celebrate by encouraging your family and friends to do the same. By being vocal about your colonoscopy experience, you can give others the encouragement they may need to get screened themselves and in turn, aid in early detection of colorectal cancer.
During my nearly eight years at Salix Pharmaceuticals, I’ve seen firsthand the impact successful colorectal cancer screenings can have on patients’ lives. Whether it’s providing simple tips like the ones above, or working directly with advocacy groups and providers, it’s an honor to have even a small role in helping to serve the colorectal cancer community.