How To Prepare For Your Colorectal Cancer Procedure

Kristi Guillemette | March 16, 2017

Preparing for a colorectal cancer screening takes planning. Some people are worried about the preparation, while others are more concerned about the procedure.  Colorectal cancer screening is important and planning can make the process easier.  Because colon cancer is treatable when found early, colonoscopy procedures are important for people over the age of 50 and those in a high risk group.

Your doctor will prescribe a bowel cleanse preparation that includes instructions and the timetable for completing the cleanse based on your procedure time.  To help you with your planning, below is a sample two week timetable you may wish to consider. Follow up with your doctor’s office before making any changes to your screening preparation plan.

Two weeks before screening:

  • Request time off from work for the day before and the day of the procedure. The time of your procedure will determine the time you will begin the colon cleanse the day before. You will not be able to work the day before the screening.
  • Schedule transportation to and from the procedure. You will be given medicine during the exam to make you fall asleep and you will not be able to drive home.
  • Complete and return the patient information packet sent by the doctor’s office.
  • If needed, call your insurance company for pre-notification, and ask about the coverage amounts allowed under your health insurance plan.
  • If your screening is partially covered under your health insurance plan, contact your doctor’s office to determine what amount you will be responsible for.
  • Pick up the prescribed colon cleansing kit from your pharmacy.

One week before:

  • Read the preparation instructions.
  • You will only be allowed clear liquids the day before the exam. Do not drink liquids that have red or purple coloring, they will interfere with the procedure.  Suggested liquids are: water, juice (without pulp), clear soda, coffee and tea (without milk), clear broth and gelatin dessert.
  • You may want to also buy epsom salts to mix in a lukewarm bathtub for sitting to soothe any soreness or burning sensation from the colon cleanse.

Three days before:

  • Begin a low-residue diet to minimize waste in your colon.

One day before:

  • Follow the instructions provided by your doctor’s office. Sometimes, the instructions may not be the same as what is included with the colon cleanse prep.  It is important to ask your doctor if there are differences.
  • Begin a clear liquid diet, drinking plenty of clear liquids such as water, clear broth, fruit juice (without pulp), plain coffee or tea (without milk). Be sure to stay away from red or purple liquids.
  • Stay near a bathroom.

Day of the exam:

  • Do not eat or drink after the time specified by your doctor as this may result in a rescheduling of the procedure.
  • Arrive at the facility at the designated time.

The day of the procedure goes by very quickly and pain free. The doctor will administer medicine to allow you to relax and fall asleep. The procedure typically takes 10-30 minutes, but expect to spend a few additional hours recovering. You will not be permitted to drive home, so be sure to arrange a ride home in advance.


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