Busting common myths about colonoscopies


March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colonoscopy is one of the most commonly used colorectal cancer screening tests – and it can be a lifesaver.

However many people dread colonoscopy ‘prep’ and believe that a gallon of bad-tasting laxative is the only option to clean the colon prior to having the test. 

According to Cleveland Clinic’s Carol Burke, M.D., that’s a myth. 

“We have many new kids on the block that are better tasting, and more palatable, and much lower volume that patients are really appreciative to have,” she said. 

Dr. Burke said the preparation solution consumed before a colonoscopy is designed to clean the colon of residue– allowing doctors to detect and remove polyps more easily and, in turn, prevent colon cancer. 

She recommends people who are nervous about bowel preparation talk to their doctor about different options that may be available. 

According to Dr. Burke, some solutions require mixing with water, while others come premade; and they now come in a variety of volumes too – some are only one liter, compared to the traditional gallon. 

She said there are a variety of flavor options too – one kind comes with different flavors for each dose to prevent flavor fatigue. While, another comes with small, individual bottles that contain a cranberry-flavored drink. 

Dr. Burke said the colonoscopy ‘prep’ solution may not need to be chugged all at once. In some cases, doctors will recommend drinking half of the solution the night before the procedure; and the other half the morning of.

In addition to the solution, a liquid diet is recommended the day before a colonoscopy.

But Dr. Burke warns of another myth – that all liquids are created equal.

“You really should be on only clear liquids the day before the exam, lots of clear liquids,” she said. “Some people are confused about what is a clear liquid. A clear liquid is any liquid that you can put the newspaper or a magazine behind and see-through, so orange juice with pulp – not a clear liquid.” 

Most guidelines recommended colorectal cancer screening for average risk Americans at age 50. 

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