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The Worst Part is the Day Before: Colonoscopies

Written by Matthew Herrera, National Council of College Leaders alumnus

I was five-years-old when I had my first colonoscopy. I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember having to drink two milk jugs (or they at least seemed like milk jugs) of some nasty liquid that made me poop a bunch. I was only five so I didn’t really understand why I needed to drink it, or what was going to happen after I did, but it wasn’t long thereafter that I came to learn of that dreaded procedure that we IBD patients loathe - colonoscopies.

As an ulcerative colitis patient, I am well aware of the reason why I need to have these procedures performed routinely. Not only are colonoscopies important for observing the status or progression of one’s IBD, but they also play a significant role in the early detection and diagnosis of colorectal cancer. Unfortunately, patients with ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease involving the colon are at higher risk for developing colorectal cancer than the general population, so regular colonoscopies are important. While most people aren’t big fans of getting a colonoscopy, the procedure is important in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle with your disease. Having a colonoscopy, whether it’s your first one ever or your twentieth can be somewhat of a nerve-wracking process. You may feel anxious about the outcome or even the idea of a doctor looking at your intestines with a camera, but at the end of the day, colonoscopies are a valuable tool for physicians and patients to better understand your disease and make decisions about your treatment.

So, if you’re feeling a little worried about receiving a colonoscopy, here are a few tips and tricks that may help ease your concern:
1. Try not to eat too much on the day before you have to do your prep. I like to live by the saying, “The more that goes in, the more that comes out.”
2. Drinks LOTS of water. Hydration is important when you’re poopin’ a bunch.
3. Depending on the type of prep your doctor prescribes, try mixing it with an allowed liquid that is tasty (like Sprite or something of that nature). Just make sure you read the directions in case there are limits on what you can mix it with!
4. When doing the clean out, don’t get too invested in a movie or anything like that – you won’t have much time to actually do much TV watching (if you catch my drift).
5. Make your poops productive! Take advantage of all the free time you’ll have while you’re on the toilet. Do a crossword puzzle or write that paper you’ve been putting off. The possibilities are endless!
6. Have. Enough. Toilet. Paper. Ready.
7. On the day of your procedure, wake up early just in case you need to go to the bathroom a few times before you leave. You don’t want to be in the car when it hits.

I hope these tips make you feel a little less stressed about your colonoscopy! If you’re still concerned, I encourage you to talk to your doctor about the procedure and what you can do to make your experience an easy one.

If you’d like to learn more about colorectal cancer and IBD, check out the Foundation’s resources available for patients here or simply ask your doctor. An honest discussion about your risks as a patient is very important and will have a direct impact on your overall well-being!

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