In order for a colonoscopy to be complete and accurate, the patient’s colon must be completely cleaned. While this part of the test has been met with apprehension by patients over the years, it is now easier than ever.
At Mission Hospital McDowell, the preferred test prep drink is a combination of Gatorade and Miralax. Patients are given the recipe and instructed to begin the evening prior to their test and split the drink into two doses with several hours in between.
“There are several reasons why it is our preferred prep,” said Daniel McLaughlin, MD, medical director of general surgery in the east region for Mission Health. “The majority of people find the Gatorade mixture more palatable than the other options available. Additionally, the volume is only two liters, which is half the volume of the traditional four-liter prep, no prescription is required and many times this option is more affordable.”
Colonoscopies help physicians evaluate the inside of a patient’s colon. While they may be done for a variety of reasons, they are the standard screening method for colon cancer prevention and typically only take 20 to 30 minutes.
“Colon cancer starts as a small polyp, and over time that polyp has the potential to grow bigger and the cells within it to turn into cancer,” explained Dr. McLaughlin. “By performing colonoscopies at regular intervals these polyps may be found and removed, thus preventing them from turning into colon cancer.”
Colonoscopies should begin at the age of 50 or 10 years prior to the age a first degree relative was diagnosed with colon cancer or an advanced colon polyp, advised Dr. McLaughlin. The recommendation for most people will be for repeat colonoscopies every 5-10 years, while some may require more frequent screening depending upon their history.
Know Your Colon Cancer Risks
- Previous history of polyps or colorectal cancer
- Family history of polyps or colorectal cancer
- Colonic conditions such as ulcerative colitis, IBD and colonic polyps
- Type 2 diabetes
- Physical inactivity
- Diet high in red meat and processed meats
- Heavy alcohol use
Daniel McLaughlin, MD, is the medical director of general surgery in the east region for Mission Health.