A colonoscopy is a diagnostic procedure that involves a doctor inserting a camera into the rectum to take images of the digestive system. These images are then used to help make diagnoses of a variety of conditions from Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis to colon and rectal cancer and coeliac disease. Chances are if you have or are suspected of having inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) you’ll probably have to undergo a colonoscopy at least once, if not multiple times.
For ‘scope newbies, we’ve put together our top tips for getting ready for your first colonoscopy. We hope this will help you feel prepared, alleviate any anxiety you may feel about the procedure and generally face the lead up with as much good humour as you can muster (given the circumstances).
1. Don’t read the internet (except for this post)
You know the old adage: a happy customer will tell one person, whilst unhappy customer will tell a dozen? Well, that dozen has skyrocketed into the millions since the invention of the internet. If you Google ‘colonoscopy’ and ‘pain’ (don’t do it – we promise it’s a bad idea!), of course you’re going to find tales of terrible colonoscopy experiences. But you could also substitute ‘colonoscopy’ for ‘ear piercing’ or ‘dentist visit’ and find just as many so-called horror stories. If you only search for the negative side of the story, that’s all you’re going to find.
2. Speak to people who’ve gone through it
Rather than entering a Google spiral of strangers’ less-than-pleasant experiences, try talking to someone you know and trust about their colonoscopy experience. People who’ve had the procedure before will understand the anxiety and apprehension you’re feeling and will be able to give you a first-hand account of an actual experience. They’ll be able to talk you through the prep and give you tips on dealing with the lead up and will likely confirm that you have nothing to worry about.
3. Discuss your concerns with your health care team
When it comes to colonoscopies, the most knowledgeable people in your support network are your healthcare providers. If you are worried or nervous about anything at all to do with the procedure, speak to your doctor, nurse or other healthcare provider.
4. Get kitted up
This of course refers to the prep kit you’ll need to get from the chemist to clear your colon prior to the procedure. This also refers to the ‘essentials’ you’ll want to have on hand when you’re settling in for an afternoon of excellent colonoscopy prep. These essentials include super soft toilet tissue, a variety of magazines or other reading material and plenty of clear fluids like consommé, ice blocks, apple juice and lemonade as you’re generally not allowed to eat for 24 hours in advance. Jelly and ice blocks are great as they make you ‘feel’ like you’re eating.
5. Stay home
Colonoscopy prep is not the most fun or attractive thing you’ll ever do. When you’re settling in to take the laxative solutions from the prep kit, it’s best to be in the comfort of your own home so you feel relaxed and have everything you need on hand. Slip into some comfy clothes and get ready to face the next few hours with a good helping of humour.
Always remember, as uncomfortable as it is, this process is all about identifying health problems and can lead to beneficial courses of treatment and a better overall quality of life.