For more years than I can remember, my doctors have always had me do a fecal occult blood test at the time of my annual physical. These were kind of "yucky" to do, but fairly easy.
Three years ago, my doctor suggested that we do a sigmoidoscopy. She explained the procedure to me in quite a bit of detail; we scheduled it for about two weeks later and she gave me written instructions for prep. I was instructed not to eat beef or other red meat for three days (I think) before the procedure. On the day before the procedure I was to mix a large amount of Ducolax in a gallon of water. I don't recall the specific amount, but it was the whole container of Ducolax that I purchased at Rite Aid. I was also instructed to drink specific amounts of this mixture at certain intervals/times and to eat only clear liquid foods, e.g., Jell-O, fruit juice, chicken broth, etc., but none of it (food or liquids) could be red, e.g., no red Jell-O, Gatorade, or cranberry juice. I had to take the last amount of any food at 6:00 p.m. and the last amount of the Ducolax mixture at 9:00 p.m. (I think I had to start drinking the Ducolax at 10:00 a.m.) During that afternoon and evening, I did have to go to the bathroom for bowel movements many times as the Ducolax began its work. I did have quite a bit of cramping from the action of the Ducolax. Incidentally, the Ducolax tasted terrible--I gagged a few times in trying to get it all down.
The next morning I was to only sip small amounts of water or a few ice chips. My doctor had given me a couple of pills (I don't remember what they were), which were to be taken at 6:00 a.m. The procedure was done by my doctor in her office suite. Other than the pills to help me relax, I was not sedated in any way. I disrobed and put on a gown that opened in the back. I lay down on the examination table on my right side with the nurse in front of me. The doctor was behind me and explained each step as she went along. I recall only feeling a little discomfort during the procedure--no more than like minor gas pains and actually less pain that I have felt a few times when badly constipated.
I don't recall exactly, but I think the procedure only took about 20-30 minutes. The doctor told me she had seen a couple of polyps so she wanted to schedule a colonoscopy for a more complete exam. She explained in detail the difference between the sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy and her nurse scheduled the colonoscopy at an outpatient surgery clinic here in Escondido. That appointment was about six weeks later. The clinic sent me a confirming letter with printed instructions for prep.
I didn't have any problems afterwards, except a little gas when I started eating solid food.
The prep for my colonoscopy was the same as for the sigmoidoscopy. Once again, I was instructed not to eat red meats, beets, etc. for several days before the colonoscopy and to eat only the soft foods the day before--again no red foods or liquids. This time, I was instructed to use Miralax. I don't recall the specific amount of Miralax, but I was able to mix it with liquids other than water--I chose Gatorade (which is one of my favorites.) Although I still had a lot to drink, it was much easier to take because the Miralax didn't seem to change the flavor of the Gatorade at all. Again, that afternoon and evening I had many bowel movements, but didn't seem to have nearly as much cramping with the Miralax as I had with the Ducolax. (I now keep only Miralax in my medicine cabinet to take a dose or two when I am constipated, but that's only once every month or two.)
On the day of the appointment, I checked in at the surgical clinic and was taken in and put on an exam table. I was given an oxygen mask but I don't know if this is standard or as a precaution since I have COPD and Asthma. I was sedated, but I don't know what drug was used. I slept through the whole procedure, which was less than an hour, and woke up feeling very well rested and relaxed. The doctor told me he had found three polyps and had removed them during the procedure. I spent 20-30 minutes in the recovery room and then was allowed to dress and leave. I had been instructed to have someone drive for me because of the effects of the sedation, so my daughter drove me home. I didn't feel dizzy or faint afterwards, but things did seem a little "off" to me. I went home and just took it easy the rest of the day. I didn't have any other problems except, again, a little gas from eating solid food again.
As far as I know, none of my friends or family has had colon cancer--but you should know that my family is very closed-mouth and prudish and won't discuss such things even with family members, e.g. my own mother couldn't tell me about menstruation, etc.--she asked a friend to tell me about it. So I doubt that I would know about it even if a family member had had colon cancer.
As I said above, my doctor suggested the sigmoidoscopy during an annual exam. I had watched and read about Katie Curic's colonoscopy and her supportive efforts, so I did know a little of what to expect and my doctor was quite good as explaining the procedures in clear, "layman's" terms.
People just don't understand how very important the screening tests are. They always "don't have time for it now" or some other excuse for not getting one. They seem to have the attitude that "it won't happen to me." The same is true of the screening tests for breast cancer.
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