Temple Faculty Physicians is experiencing technical issues with phone lines. If you are experiencing an emergency, please visit your nearest emergency room. If you would like to schedule an appointment with your provider or have general questions or requests, please contact us by using myTempleHealth.

800-TEMPLE-MED Schedule Appointment

Colonoscopy Prep: Why It’s Important and What You Can Expect

View All Blog Posts

Plus, New Screening Guidelines

Posted by Neena Mohan, MD

As a gastroenterologist, I tell people that getting screened for colorectal cancer is a crucial step for maintaining a healthy life. Screening can actually prevent colorectal cancer — not just detect it. I’ve helped many patients avoid this potentially deadly disease with a colonoscopy.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are overdue for their colonoscopies. Plus, screening recommendations have now changed.

The American Cancer Society and U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now recommend that most adults start regular colorectal cancer screening at age 45.

The prior recommendation was to start screening at 50. It was lowered because studies show that rates of colorectal cancer among people younger than 50 are on the rise.

When I discuss colonoscopies with patients, there are often many questions about the prep involved. This is very understandable. As the prep is a vital part of a successful colonoscopy, understanding these steps is important for patients.

How Colonoscopy Prep Works

During a colonoscopy, your gastroenterologist uses a scope — a long, thin tube with a small camera attached to it — to look inside your rectum and colon. You’re sedated during the procedure, so you won’t be awake or feel discomfort during the colonoscopy.

The scope allows the doctor to check for polyps and colon cancer. Polyps are growths in the colon that may become cancerous if not removed. Finding and removing polyps is key to preventing colorectal cancer.

The scope needs a clear view so your doctor can spot any growths. Before having a colonoscopy, you need to flush out your bowel so that little to no stool remains inside the colon.

Your doctor will provide specific instructions on how to cleanse your bowel and individualize instructions for you if needed. This usually involves a couple steps:

1. Follow a clear liquid diet the day before your colonoscopy.

What you can drink or eat:

  • Black coffee
  • Plain tea
  • Ginger ale
  • Water
  • Clear fruit juice
  • Clear broth
  • Clear gelatin

What to avoid:

  • Orange juice
  • Red and purple gelatin
  • Sports drinks

Remember: following this diet is important for an effective prep.

Colonoscopy prep: clear liquids guidelines

2. Take a laxative prep.

Your gastroenterologist will give you instructions to explain the prep recommended for you. Be sure to follow them exactly as prescribed. If your doctor cannot see your colon clearly, you might have to repeat the colonoscopy sooner than would be recommended for a clean colon.

Laxatives empty your bowel of stool to allow for clear visualization of the colon. These laxatives are typically in liquid form, which you will drink the day before the colonoscopy. Keep drinking plenty of fluids along with your laxative prep to stay hydrated.

If you have any questions or aren’t sure about something, you can always call your doctor’s office.

After the Procedure

Once you’ve finished the prep, the hardest part is over! What’s left for you to do is arrange for someone to take you to and from your procedure. Since you may feel tired from the anesthesia, you won’t be able to drive for 24 hours.

By the next day, you should be back to feeling like yourself. And you should be able to return to your regular activities.

Your doctor’s office will notify you of your test results.

Schedule Your Colonoscopy Today

If you’re at the recommended age for colorectal cancer screening, it’s important to get screened soon.

Request an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536).

Helpful Resources

Looking for more information?

Neena Mohan, MD

Dr. Mohan is a gastroenterologist with clinical interests in GERD, Barrett’s esophagus, inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer screening. She is Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, and a member of several organizations including the American College of Gastroenterology, American Gastroenterological Association and Pennsylvania Society of Gastroenterology.

See More Posts In